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The traditions of ethnography and participatory action research (PAR) have different roots and different priorities, but their trajectories have become entangled in educational research over the past halfcentury. In many ways, ethnography and PAR are compatible. Both make participants’ perspectives central to the research. Both rely primarily on qualitative methods. Both are ethically committed to appreciating cultural differences and promoting the welfare of the groups they work with. Taken together, each adds something important to the other: PAR offers ethnography a “stance toward research” that is more democratic and action-oriented than traditional ethnography; ethnography lends PAR legitimacy as a research approach. Nonetheless, differences between the two create contradictions and tensions when they are combined. While educational researchers remain enthusiastic about the potential of combining activism with cultural analysis, it is important not to collapse ethnography and participatory action research, or privilege one over the other, but to find productive ways to move forward with the tensions between them.

Article

Popular Education (PE) is an educational movement and pedagogical current that emerged in Latin America in the seventies. It was a result of Paulo Freire’s pedagogical proposals in a context of radicalization of popular struggle and cultural and intellectual movements. During the past five decades, hundreds of groups, practices and projects have identified themselves as part of the PE movement. As a pedagogical current, PE is understood as an educational perspective and practice, which is critical of institutionalized education and identifies with emancipatory political perspectives. Its purpose is to help populations that experience oppression or discrimination to strengthen their capacity to change their conditions, relationships, practices and ways of thinking and feeling by means of cultural, educational, dialogical, participatory, interactive and expressive practices. With respect to the history of PE in Latin America, its social contexts and educational practices, four stages can be identified: 1. The liberating pedagogy of Paulo Freire at the end of the sixties. 2. The foundational stage PE in the seventies. 3. The re-foundation and expansion of the PE in the eighties and nineties. 4. The reactivation of the EP in the current context. During these periods, a constant interest in PE has been producing knowledge from and about its contexts, themes and practices. From its origins, it has created and incorporated qualitative research strategies in coherence with its political and epistemological options. As evidenced in each historical phase of the PE, the use of a qualitative methodology predominated: thematic research in Freire’s pedagogical proposal; participatory action research (PAR) in its foundational stage; collective reconstruction of the history and critical ethnography in its expansion phase; systematization of practices since the 1990s; and the emergence of innovative and aesthetic strategies at the present century. A set of methodological principles derive from this historical path of qualitative research in PE: 1. Maintaining a critical distance from institutionalized research modes in the scientific world, acknowledging their subordination to hegemonic powers. 2. Assuming PE to be both critical and emancipatory. This option is identified with values, willpower, and projects that involve new meanings of the organization of collective life. 3. Recognizing the place of the cultural and the intersubjective, both in social phenomena and in social research processes. 4. Linking it to emancipatory organizational processes and collective actions. 5. Not subordinating it to the institutional logic of disciplinary research. 6. Promoting group and organization participation in research process decisions. 7. Ensuring that it promotes formation of knowledge collectives. 8. Maintaining a critical and creative use of the theory. 9. Recognizing the plurality of subjects and promoting a “dialogue of knowledge.” 10. Incorporating diverse cultural practices within communities in order to produce and communicate their knowledge. 11. Assuming methodology to be a flexible practice. 12. Assuming research within PE is a permanent practice of critical reflection.

Article

Anne Galletta and María Elena Torre

Participatory action research (PAR) is an epistemological framework rooted in critiques of knowledge production made by feminist and critical race theory that challenge exclusive academic notions of what counts as knowledge. PAR legitimizes and prioritizes the expertise and perspectives that come from lived experience and situated knowledge, particularly among those that have been historically marginalized. In education research, a PAR approach typically centers the wisdom and experience of students (or school-age youth) and educators, positioning them as architects of research rather than objects of study. This form of participatory inquiry and collective action serves as a countercurrent in schools, where democratic inquiry and meaning making contradicts the top-down knowledge transmission practices bounded by prescribed curriculum and high-stakes standardized assessments. Like all scholars, those engaged in PAR contend with questions regarding standards of scientific practice and what counts as evidence even as they co-generate knowledge and solidarity with communities in which they may be members or allies that are outside the academy. PAR projects frequently emerge from a critique of dehumanizing structural arrangements and alienating, often pathologizing, cultural discourses. These critiques spark a desire for research that questions these arrangements and discourses, documenting and engaging critical interpretive perspectives, all with the hope of producing findings that will create cracks and fissures in the status quo and provoke transformational change. PAR builds inquiry in the spaces between what is and what could be, with the assumption that dissonance and/or clashes of meaning with ruptures are generative in the possibility for reframing social problems and reconfiguring human relations. When discordance within the research collective, or between the collective and the outside world, is engaged rather than denied or smoothed over, new and different ways of seeing and being emerge. More than simply a method, critical PAR reflects a philosophical understanding of knowledge as socially produced through history and power, an epistemology that recognizes the liberatory impulse of critique and its potential for transformation. PAR projects privilege standpoints that have been traditionally excluded and excavate operations of power within the research in order to inform analytical lenses necessary to understanding dynamics within the issues and experiences being studied. Examining the potential of PAR in education requires particular attention to the context of what children and youth encounter on a daily basis. Schools have been and continue to be spaces of struggle and contestation for students, in terms of learning and development, mental health and well-being, and physical safety. Federal policies have hollowed out protections for the most marginalized students, particularly youth of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth; and immigrant and undocumented youth. The rampant privatization of public education, narrowing of public governance, and the deceptive branding of corporate reform as “equity” is sobering. PAR in education troubles this very context, offering a research praxis of countervailing power, agitation, and generative ways of knowing, and being in relation. This encyclopedic entry details the ways in which participatory spaces bring people together, through inquiry, across a continuum of privilege and vulnerability to make meaning of the conditions under which we are living, with each other, for our collective liberation.

Article

Globally, there is a shift toward embracing educational research with a social justice intent, based on the principles of inclusion, authentic participation, and democratic decision-making. This shift toward doing research with, rather than on, participants could be seen as a reaction to the criticism of contemporary universities being exclusive and in need of finding ways to connect with traditionally marginalized groups. Universities need to be more responsive to the real learning and development needs of communities and use their theoretical knowledge to complement and facilitate, rather than direct, research conducted in partnership with those whose lives are directly affected by the phenomenon being studied. Community-based educational research accepts local knowledge as the starting point of sustainable change and the learning and development of all involved as an important outcome of the research process. Community-based research thus has an educative intent; it is also inherently political since it aims to change systems that breed inequity. Yet these very characteristics stand in opposition to the neoliberal, silo-like models of operation in academia, where the bottom line trumps social impact in most strategic decisions. Negotiating the bureaucratic boundaries regarding the ethics of community-based research becomes a major hurdle for most researchers and often leads to compromises that contradict and undermine the ideal of partnership and equitable power relations. There is a pressing need to rethink how we “do” community-based educational research to ensure it is truly educational for all. This begs the question, in what ways does the academy need to change to accommodate educational research that contributes to the sustainable learning and development of people and to the democratization of knowledge? Community-based educational research can help close the gap between theory and practice, between academic and community researcher.

Article

Wendy Luttrell

Reflexivity can be regarded as part of a continuous research practice. Qualitative researchers work within and across social differences (e.g., cultural, class, race, gender, generation) and this requires them to navigate different layers of self-awareness—from unconscious to semiconscious to fully conscious. Because researchers can be aware on one level but not on others, reflexivity is facilitated by using an eclectic and expansive toolkit for examining the role of the researcher, researcher-researched relationships, power, privilege, emotions, positionalities, and different ways of seeing. Over the past fifty years, there has been a progression of reflexive practice as well as disciplinary debates about how much self-awareness and transparency are enough and how much is too much. The shift can be traced from the early practitioners of ethnography who did not reflect on their positions, power or feelings (or at least make these reflections public), to those who acknowledged that their emotions could be both revealing and distorting, to those who interrogated their multiple positionalities (mostly in terms of the blinders of Western/race/class/gender/generation), to those calling for the mixing and blurring of different genres of representation as important tools of reflexivity. Reflexivity is not a solitary process limited to critical self-awareness, but derives from a collective ethos and humanizes rather than objectifies research relationships and the knowledge that is created.

Article

School counselors conducting qualitative research is not a novel idea. Indeed, school counselors are required to use data to develop and incorporate counseling programs to meet the needs of all students. However, large caseloads and school counselors’ involvement in non-counseling-oriented tasks leave little time for involvement in research. However, by collaborating with school, family, and community stakeholders, school counselors could incorporate qualitative research into their roles, which would then enable them to be more effective in their jobs. Participatory action research (PAR) is a research paradigm that allows school counselors to collect data to pinpoint the needs of the school, collaborate with key stakeholders to address the identified needs, and then use that data to develop and implement data-based programs. In essence, school counselors, using this qualitative research method, could be better informed on how to best address these issues in their schools. By the nature of their training, school counselors are adept at the qualitative techniques of in-depth interviewing, observing, analyzing the data, and making informed decisions from the data, which is why collective qualitative research could be a natural extension of their job duties.

Article

Youth have a rich history of engaging in activism and organizing within schools to promote equity based on gender, sexuality, and race. Youth equity work in secondary schools includes myriad activities: developing student-led clubs, such as gay-straight alliances (GSAs, also known as gender and sexuality alliances); advocating for inclusive policies, practices, and curriculum; engaging in direct action, such as protests; and developing individual and shared critical consciousness. Situated in the United States, Canada, and other countries, GSAs are a common way that youth have organized to promote equity and justice for youth with marginalized sexualities and genders; they have, however, been critiqued for their lack of inclusion of racially or ethnically marginalized students or attention to intersecting forms of oppression. Opportunities exist within research, education, and practice to understand and address the heterogeneity and intersectionality of GSA groups and members, examine and understand other forms of school-based activism from an intersectional perspective, and recognize and examine school-based equity work within the broader cultural, social, and political contexts that involve families and communities. Youth, teachers, and social workers engaged in equity work in schools must attend to intersectionality and center the needs of the most marginalized within their work.

Article

Investigative practices, including research methodologies, approaches, processes, as well as knowledge dissemination efforts continue to evolve within inclusive or special education. So too do such practices evolve within related fields such as nursing, psychology, community-based care, health promotion, etc. There are several research approaches that promote the tools required to effect inclusive education, such as: evidence-based practice (EBP), EBP in practice, creative secondary uses of (anonymous) data, collective impact, qualitative evidence synthesis (QES), and lines of action (LOA). Other approaches that promote a more inclusive education research agenda more generally, include action research and participatory action research, inclusive research, appreciative inquiry, and arts-based educational research.