Gay-Straight Alliances as Settings for Youth Inclusion and Development: Future Conceptual and Methodological Directions for Research on These and Other Student Groups in Schools

V. Paul Poteat, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Jerel P. Calzo, Stephen T. Russell, Stacey Horn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Outside the immediate classroom setting, efforts within other school spaces also can shape school climate, address inequality, and affect student performance. Nevertheless, in this respect there has been little research on school-based extracurricular groups focused on issues of social inclusion and justice. An exception to this lack of focus has been Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), which promote social inclusion and justice for sexual and gender minority youth (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning youth; LGBTQ) through support, socializing, education, and advocacy. As this literature has matured, we detail and provide examples of the following conceptual and methodological recommendations to address emerging research needs for GSAs: (1) Move from a monolithic to contextualized treatment of GSAs, (2) attend to heterogeneity among members, (3) utilize multiple data sources for triangulation, (4) apply a range of methodological approaches to capitalize on strengths of different designs, (5) collect longitudinal data over short-term and extended time periods, and (6) consider GSAs within a broader umbrella of youth settings. Further, we note ways in which these recommendations apply to other student groups organized around specific sociocultural identities. These advances could produce more comprehensive empirically supported models to guide GSAs and similar groups on how to promote resilience among their diverse members and address broader social issues within their schools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-516
Number of pages9
JournalEducational Researcher
Issue number9
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017



  • adolescence
  • advocacy
  • descriptive analysis
  • experimental research
  • Gay-Straight Alliance
  • gay/lesbian studies
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning youth
  • longitudinal studies
  • mixed methods
  • peer interaction/friendship
  • positive youth development
  • qualitative research
  • social context
  • social justice
  • social support
  • survey research
  • youth programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

Cite this