Afterschool Documentary Studio as Consequential Node in Urban Youth's Learning Pathways

Jasmine Y. Ma, New York University
Molly L. Kelton, Washington State University
Sarah C. Radke, Noor Jones-Bey, Shruti Krishnamoorthy, Hui-Ling Malone, Syzan Vucetaj
New York University

Goal: 1) understand how diverse urban youth participate in meaningful activity across multiple, heterogeneous settings; and 2) describe and characterize connected sets of learning resources-- (mathematics) learning pathways.

This interdisciplinary study is rooted in the principle that a more equitable mathematics begins with investigating “the out-of-school spaces young people occupy and create with the guiding assumption that one will find complex intellectual activity, and then staying long enough to gain a deeper understanding of the developmental demands participation in such settings requires,” (Vossoughi & Gutiérrez, 2014, p. 613).

Empirical focus: Characterizations of youth’s (mathematics) learning pathways will contribute to understandings of the resources young people recruit and assemble as they engage in learning practices situated across a variety of settings whose sociomaterial arrangements varyingly invite or discourage certain forms of participation.

Theoretical focus: We deliberately reconsider the methodological, and thus analytical and theoretical role of context in research on learning. A substantial piece of the project involves the development of concepts that help us understand learning resources that emerge and take shape across youths’ trajectories—refinements, revisions, and remixes of resources familiar to the field, or altogether new categories previously obscured in studies of discrete contexts bounded by space or activity.  

The Study: Multi-sited ethnographic project that begins in an afterschool setting, the Documentary Studio (DS), where high school students from transfer schools in NYCDoE develop a question about a social issue that’s important to them, research it then produce a documentary film on the subject. We then select a small group of focal youth and follow them into their homes, schools, communities, and other activities of importance to them, using ethnographic methods as well as methods from human geography.


  • How does the DS support underserved youth’s learning as a cross-setting phenomenon?
  • How do we characterize proportional reasoning as an expansive practice that travels across settings?
  • How do DS youth’s experiences consuming and producing video operate as a locus around opportunities to learn academic content?
  • How do DS youth recruit and assemble resources across settings in the development of mathematical identities? (Radke – check out her poster!)
  • In what ways does centering community at DS support youth learning? (Malone)
  • How do youth edit community practices through varying improvisations that could be perceived as disruptions in a classroom setting, and strategically utilize space and activity for their purposes? (Jones-Bey)