Reflections from evaluating a social learning space to advance gender+ equity in recreational youth sport


Recreational sport programs face challenges in recruiting and retaining girls and gender diverse youth. To address these inequities, a team with expertise in youth development through sport facilitated a social learning space for BGC Canada leaders to advance gender+ equity in their sport activities. This space was co-facilitated by two principal investigators (Shaikh, Kramers), with support from three research assistants (Graper, Armstrong, Gray). These research assistants were in a unique position in participating as both interventionists and evaluators, immersed in novel forms of research (e.g., participatory action research, social learning spaces) at the onset of their academic careers, and all with vested interests in research and practice of gender+ equity in sport. As such, the purpose of this study was to generate reflections of these junior researchers in their navigation of this learning space. This action research project involved the researcher assistants' participating in and observing all six 1-hour sessions, producing rigorous field notes of the interactions, and moderating small group discussions. The research assistants reflected on their participation through meetings with co-facilitators. These reflections were aggregated and categorized across three notable themes: (a) blurred lines between evaluator and participant in the space, (b) broadened academic and practical knowledge around gender issues in youth sport, and (c) intentions and actions towards shifting/re-conceptualizing their own research and practice beyond the space. These reflections may offer helpful perspectives and considerations for researchers planning to create and facilitate action research projects and/or social learning spaces to promote gender+ equity in youth sport.