Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • View all journals
  • Explore content
  • About the journal
  • Publish with us
  • Sign up for alerts
  • Published: 27 April 2023

Participatory action research

  • Flora Cornish   ORCID: 1 ,
  • Nancy Breton   ORCID: 1 ,
  • Ulises Moreno-Tabarez   ORCID: 2 ,
  • Jenna Delgado 3 ,
  • Mohi Rua 4 ,
  • Ama de-Graft Aikins 5 &
  • Darrin Hodgetts 6  

Nature Reviews Methods Primers volume  3 , Article number:  34 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

65k Accesses

47 Citations

53 Altmetric

Metrics details

  • Communication
  • Developing world

Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to research that prioritizes the value of experiential knowledge for tackling problems caused by unequal and harmful social systems, and for envisioning and implementing alternatives. PAR involves the participation and leadership of those people experiencing issues, who take action to produce emancipatory social change, through conducting systematic research to generate new knowledge. This Primer sets out key considerations for the design of a PAR project. The core of the Primer introduces six building blocks for PAR project design: building relationships; establishing working practices; establishing a common understanding of the issue; observing, gathering and generating materials; collaborative analysis; and planning and taking action. We discuss key challenges faced by PAR projects, namely, mismatches with institutional research infrastructure; risks of co-option; power inequalities; and the decentralizing of control. To counter such challenges, PAR researchers may build PAR-friendly networks of people and infrastructures; cultivate a critical community to hold them to account; use critical reflexivity; redistribute powers; and learn to trust the process. PAR’s societal contribution and methodological development, we argue, can best be advanced by engaging with contemporary social movements that demand the redressingl of inequities and the recognition of situated expertise.

Similar content being viewed by others

participatory action research

Mapping the community: use of research evidence in policy and practice

participatory action research

Negotiating the ethical-political dimensions of research methods: a key competency in mixed methods, inter- and transdisciplinary, and co-production research

participatory action research

Structured output methods and environmental issues: perspectives on co-created bottom-up and ‘sideways’ science


For the authors of this Primer, participatory action research (PAR) is a scholar–activist research approach that brings together community members, activists and scholars to co-create knowledge and social change in tandem 1 , 2 . PAR is a collaborative, iterative, often open-ended and unpredictable endeavour, which prioritizes the expertise of those experiencing a social issue and uses systematic research methodologies to generate new insights. Relationships are central. PAR typically involves collaboration between a  community with lived experience of a social issue and professional researchers, often based in universities, who contribute relevant knowledge, skills, resources and networks. PAR is not a research process driven by the imperative to generate knowledge for scientific progress, or knowledge for knowledge’s sake; it is a process for generating knowledge-for-action and knowledge-through-action, in service of goals of specific communities. The position of a PAR scholar is not easy and is constantly tested, as PAR projects and roles straddle university and community boundaries, involving unequal  power relations and multiple, sometimes conflicting interests. This Primer aims to support researchers in preparing a PAR project, by providing a scaffold to navigate the processes through which PAR can help us to collaboratively envisage and enact emancipatory futures.

We consider PAR an emancipatory form of scholarship 1 . Emancipatory scholarship is driven by interest in tackling injustices and building futures supportive of human thriving, rather than objectivity and neutrality. It uses research not primarily to communicate with academic experts but to inform grassroots collective action. Many users of PAR aspire to projects of liberation and/or transformation . Users are likely to be critical of research that perpetuates oppressive power relations, whether within the research relationships themselves or in a project’s messages or outcomes, often aiming to trouble or transform power relations. PAR projects are usually concerned with developments not only in knowledge but also in action and in participants’ capacities, capabilities and performances.

PAR does not follow a set research design or particular methodology, but constitutes a strategic rallying point for collaborative, impactful, contextually situated and inclusive efforts to document, interpret and address complex systemic problems 3 . The development of PAR is a product of intellectual and activist work bridging universities and communities, with separate genealogies in several Indigenous 4 , 5 , Latin American 6 , 7 , Indian 8 , African 9 , Black feminist 10 , 11 and Euro-American 12 , 13 traditions.

PAR, as an authoritative form of enquiry, became established during the 1970s and 1980s in the context of anti-colonial movements in the Global South. As anti-colonial movements worked to overthrow territorial and economic domination, they also strived to overthrow symbolic and epistemic injustices , ousting the authority of Western science to author knowledge about dominated peoples 4 , 14 . For Indigenous scholars, the development of PAR approaches often comprised an extension of Indigenous traditions of knowledge production that value inclusion and community engagement, while enabling explicit engagements with matters of power, domination and representation 15 . At the same time, exchanges between Latin American and Indian popular education movements produced Orlando Fals Borda’s articulation of PAR as a paradigm in the 1980s. This orientation prioritized people’s participation in producing knowledge, instead of the positioning of local populations as the subject of knowledge production practices imposed by outside experts 16 . Meanwhile, PAR appealed to those inspired by Black and postcolonial feminists who challenged established knowledge hierarchies, arguing for the wisdom of people marginalized by centres of power, who, in the process of survivance, that is, surviving and resisting oppressive social structures, came to know and deconstruct those structures acutely 17 , 18 .

Some Euro-American approaches to PAR are less transformational and more reformist, in the action research paradigm, as developed by Kurt Lewin 19 to enhance organizational efficacy during and after World War II. Action research later gained currency as a popular approach for professionals such as teachers and nurses to develop their own practices, and it tended to focus on relatively small-scale adjustments within a given institutional structure, instead of challenging power relations as in anti-colonial PAR 13 , 20 . In the late twentieth century, participatory research gained currency in academic fields such as participatory development 21 , 22 , participatory health promotion 23 and creative methods 24 . Although participatory research includes participants in the conceptualization, design and conduct of a project, it may not prioritize action and social change to the extent that PAR does. In the early twenty-first century, the development of PAR is occurring through sustained scholarly engagements in anti-colonial 5 , 25 , abolitionist 26 , anti-racist 27 , 28 , gender-expansive 29 , climate activist 30 and other radical social movements.

This Primer bridges these traditions by looking across them for mutual learning but avoiding assimilating them. We hope that readers will bring their own activist and intellectual heritages to inform their use of PAR and adapt and adjust the suggestions we present to meet their needs.

Four key principles

Drawing across its diverse origins, we characterize PAR by four key principles. The first is the authority of direct experience. PAR values the expertise generated through experience, claiming that those who have been marginalized or harmed by current social relations have deep experiential knowledge of those systems and deserve to own and lead initiatives to change them 3 , 5 , 17 , 18 . The second is knowledge in action. Following the tradition of action research, it is through learning from the experience of making changes that PAR generates new knowledge 13 . The third key principle is research as a transformative process. For PAR, the research process is as important as the outcomes; projects aim to create empowering relationships and environments within the research process itself 31 . The final key principle is collaboration through dialogue. PAR’s power comes from harnessing the diverse sets of expertise and capacities of its collaborators through critical dialogues 7 , 8 , 32 .

Because PAR is often unfamiliar, misconstrued or mistrusted by dominant scientific 33 institutions, PAR practitioners may find themselves drawn into competitions and debates set on others’ terms, or into projects interested in securing communities’ participation but not their emancipation. Engaging communities and participants in participatory exercises for the primary purpose of advancing research aims prioritized by a university or others is not, we contend, PAR. We encourage PAR teams to articulate their intellectual and political heritage and aspirations, and agree their core principles, to which they can hold themselves accountable. Such agreements can serve as anchors for decision-making or counterweights to the pull towards inegalitarian or extractive research practices.

Aims of the Primer

The contents of the Primer are shaped by the authors’ commitment to emancipatory, engaged scholarship, and their own experience of PAR, stemming from their scholar-activism with marginalized communities to tackle issues including state neglect, impoverishment, infectious and non-communicable disease epidemics, homelessness, sexual violence, eviction, pollution, dispossession and post-disaster recovery. Collectively, our understanding of PAR is rooted in Indigenous, Black feminist and emancipatory education traditions and diverse personal experiences of privilege and marginalization across dimensions of race, class, gender, sexuality and disability. We use an inclusive understanding of PAR, to include engaging, emancipatory work that does not necessarily use the term PAR, and we aim to showcase some of the diversity of scholar-activism around the globe. The contents of this Primer are suggestions and reflections based on our own experience of PAR and of teaching research methodology. There are multiple ways of conceptualizing and conducting a PAR project. As context-sensitive social change processes, every project will pose new challenges.

This Primer is addressed primarily to university-based PAR researchers, who are likely to work in collaboration with members of communities or organizations or with activists, and are accountable to academic audiences as well as to community audiences. Much expertise in PAR originates outside universities, in community groups and organizations, from whom scholars have much to learn. The Primer aims to familiarize scholars new to PAR and others who may benefit with PAR’s key principles, decision points, practices, challenges, dilemmas, optimizations, limitations and work-arounds. Readers will be able to use our framework of ‘building blocks’ as a guide to designing their projects. We aim to support critical thinking about the challenges of PAR to enable readers to problem-solve independently. The Primer aims to inspire with examples, which we intersperse throughout. To illustrate some of the variety of positive achievements of PAR projects, Box  1 presents three examples.

Box 1 What does participatory action research do?

The Tsui Anaa Project 60 in Accra, Ghana, began as a series of interviews about diabetes experiences in one of Accra’s oldest indigenous communities, Ga Mashie. Over a 12-year period, a team of interdisciplinary researchers expanded the project to a multi-method engagement with a wide range of community members. University and community co-researchers worked to diagnose the burden of chronic conditions, to develop psychosocial interventions for cardiovascular and associated conditions and to critically reflect on long-term goals. A health support group of people living with diabetes and cardiovascular conditions, called Jamestown Health Club (JTHC), was formed, met monthly and contributed as patient advocates to community, city and national non-communicable disease policy. The project has supported graduate collaborators with mixed methods training, community engagement and postgraduate theses advancing the core project purposes.

Buckles, Khedkar and Ghevde 39 were approached by members of the Katkari tribal community in Maharashtra, India, who were concerned about landlords erecting fences around their villages. Using their institutional networks, the academics investigated the villagers’ legal rights to secure tenure and facilitated a series of participatory investigations, through which Katkari villagers developed their own understanding of the inequalities they faced and analysed potential action strategies. Subsequently, through legal challenges, engagement with local politics and emboldened local communities, more than 100 Katkari communities were more secure and better organized 5 years later.

The Morris Justice Project 74 in New York, USA, sought to address stop-and-frisk policing in a neighbourhood local to the City University of New York, where a predominantly Black population was subject to disproportionate and aggressive policing. Local residents surveyed their neighbours to gather evidence on experiences of stop and frisk, compiling their statistics and experiences and sharing them with the local community on the sidewalk, projecting their findings onto public buildings and joining a coalition ‘Communities United for Police Reform’, which successfully campaigned for changes to the city’s policing laws.


This section sets out the core considerations for designing a PAR project.

Owing to the intricacies of working within complex human systems in real time, PAR practitioners do not follow a highly proceduralized or linear set of steps 34 . In a cyclical process, teams work together to come to an initial definition of their social problem, design a suitable action, observe and gather information on the results, and then analyse and reflect on the action and its impact, in order to learn, modify their understanding and inform the next iteration of the research–action cycle 3 , 35 (Fig.  1 ). Teams remain open throughout the cycle to repeating or revising earlier steps in response to developments in the field. The fundamental process of building relationships occurs throughout the cycles. These spiral diagrams orient readers towards the central interdependence of processes of participation, action and research and the nonlinear, iterative process of learning by doing 3 , 36 .

figure 1

Participatory action research develops through a series of cycles, with relationship building as a constant practice. Cycles of research text adapted from ref. 81 , and figure adapted with permission from ref. 82 , SAGE.

Building blocks for PAR research design

We present six building blocks to set out the key design considerations for conducting a PAR project. Each PAR team may address these building blocks in different ways and with different priorities. Table  1 proposes potential questions and indicative goals that are possible markers of progress for each building block. They are not prescriptive or exhaustive but may be a useful starting point, with examples, to prompt new PAR teams’ planning.

Building relationships

‘Relationships first, research second’ is our key principle for PAR project design 37 . Collaborative relationships usually extend beyond a particular PAR project, and it is rare that one PAR project finalizes a desired change. A researcher parachuting in and out may be able to complete a research article, with community cooperation, but will not be able to see through the hard graft of a programme of participatory research towards social change. Hence, individual PAR projects are often nested in long-term collaborations. Such collaborations are strengthened by institutional backing in the form of sustainable staff appointments, formal recognition of the value of university–community partnerships and provision of administrative support. In such a supportive context, opportunities can be created for achievable shorter-term projects to which collaborators or temporary researchers may contribute. The first step of PAR is sometimes described as the entry, but we term this foundational step building relationships to emphasize the longer-term nature of these relationships and their constitutive role throughout a project. PAR scholars may need to work hard with and against their institutions to protect those relationships, monitoring potential collaborations for community benefit rather than knowledge and resource extraction. Trustworthy relationships depend upon scholars being aware, open and honest about their own interests and perspectives.

The motivation for a PAR project may come from university-based or community-based researchers. When university researchers already have a relationship with marginalized communities, they may be approached by community leaders initiating a collaboration 38 , 39 . Alternatively, a university-based researcher may reach out to representatives of communities facing evident problems, to explore common interests and the potential for collaboration 40 . As Indigenous scholars have articulated, communities that have been treated as the subjects or passive objects of research, commodified for the scientific knowledge of distant elites, are suspicious of research and researchers 4 , 41 . Scholars need to be able to satisfy communities’ key questions: Who are you? Why should we trust you? What is in it for our community? Qualifications, scholarly achievements or verbal reassurances are less relevant in this context than past or present valued contributions, participation in a heritage of transformational action or evidence of solidarity with a community’s causes. Being vouched for by a respected community member or collaborator can be invaluable.

Without prior relationships one can start cold, as a stranger, perhaps attending public events, informal meeting places or identifying organizations in which the topic is of interest, and introducing oneself. Strong collaborative relationships are based on mutual trust, which must be earned. It is important to be transparent about our interests and to resist the temptation to over-promise. Good PAR practitioners do not raise unrealistic expectations. Box  2 presents key soft skills for PAR researchers.

Positionality is crucial to PAR relationships. A university-based researcher’s positionalities (including, for example, their gender, race, ethnicity, class, politics, skills, age, life stage, life experiences, assumptions about the problem, experience in research, activism and relationship to the topic) interact with the positionalities of community co-researchers, shaping the collective definition of the problem and appropriate solutions. Positionalities are not fixed, but can be changing, multiple and even contradictory 42 . We have framed categories of university-based and community-based researchers here, but in practice these positionings of ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ are often more complex and shifting 43 . Consideration of diversity is important when building a team to avoid  tokenism . For example, identifying which perspectives are included initially and why, and whether members of the team or gatekeepers have privileged access owing to their race, ethnicity, class, gender and/or able-bodiedness.

The centring of community expertise in PAR does not mean that a community is ‘taken for granted’. Communities are sites of the production of similarity and difference, equality and inequalities, and politics. Knowledge that has the status of common sense may itself reproduce inequalities or perpetuate harm. Relatedly, strong PAR projects cultivate  reflexivity 44 among both university-based and community-based researchers, to enable a critical engagement with the diversity of points of view, positions of power and stakes in a project. Developing reflexivity may be uncomfortable and challenging, and good PAR projects create a supportive culture for processing such discomfort. Supplementary files  1 and   2 present example exercises that build critical reflexivity.

Box 2 Soft skills of a participatory action researcher

Respect for others’ knowledge and the expertise of experience

Humility and genuine kindness

Ability to be comfortable with discomfort

Sharing power; ceding control

Trusting the process

Acceptance of uncertainty and tensions

Openness to learning from collaborators

Self-awareness and the ability to listen and be confronted

Willingness to take responsibility and to be held accountable

Confidence to identify and challenge power relations

Establishing working practices

Partnerships bring together people with different sets of norms, assumptions, interests, resources, time frames and working practices, all nested in institutional structures and infrastructures that cement those assumptions. University-based researchers often take their own working practices for granted, but partnership working calls for negotiation. Academics often work with very extended time frames for analysis, writing and review before publication, hoping to contribute to gradually shifting agendas, discourses and politics 45 . The urgency of problems that face a community often calls for faster responsiveness. Research and management practices that are normal in a university may not be accessible to people historically marginalized through dimensions that include disability, language, racialization, gender, literacy practices and their intersections 46 . Disrupting historically entrenched power dynamics associated with these concerns can raise discomfort and calls for skilful negotiation. In short, partnership working is a complex art, calling for thoughtful design of joint working practices and a willingness to invest the necessary time.

Making working practices and areas of tension explicit is one useful starting point. Not all issues need to be fully set out and decided at the outset of a project. A foundation of trust, through building relationships in building block 1, allows work to move ahead without every element being pinned down in advance. Supplementary file  1 presents an exercise designed to build working relationships and communicative practices.

Establishing a common understanding of the issue

Co-researchers identify a common issue or problem to address. University-based researchers tend to justify the selection of the research topic with reference to a literature review, whereas in PAR, the topic must be a priority for the community. Problem definition is a key step for PAR teams, where problem does not necessarily mean something negative or a deficit, but refers to the identification of an important issue at stake for a community. The definition of a problem, however, is not always self-evident, and producing a problem definition can be a valid outcome of PAR. In the example of risks of eviction from Buckles, Khedkar and Ghevde 39 (Box  1 ), a small number of Katkari people first experienced the problem in terms of landlords erecting barbed wire fences. Other villages did not perceive the risk of eviction as a big problem compared with their other needs. Facilitating dialogues across villages about their felt problems revealed how land tenure was at the root of several issues, thus mobilizing interest. Problem definitions are political; they imply some forms of action and not others. Discussion and reflexivity about the problem definition are crucial. Compared with other methodologies, the PAR research process is much more public from the outset, and so practices of making key steps explicit, shareable, communicable and negotiable are essential. Supplementary file  3 introduces two participatory tools for collective problem definition.

Consideration of who should be involved in problem definition is important. It may be enough that a small project team works closely together at this stage. Alternatively, group or public meetings may be held, with careful facilitation 5 . Out of dialogue, a PAR team aims to agree on an actionable problem definition, responding to the team’s combination of skills, capacities and priorities. A PAR scholar works across the university–community boundary and thus is accountable to both university values and grassroots communities’ values. PAR scholars should not deny or hide the multiple demands of the role because communities with experience of marginalization are attuned to being manipulated. Surfacing interests and constraints and discussing these reflexively is often a better strategy. Creativity may be required to design projects that meet both academic goals (such as when a project is funded to produce certain outcomes) and the community’s goals.

For example, in the context of a PAR project with residents of a public housing neighbourhood scheduled for demolition and redevelopment, Thurber and colleagues 47 describe how they overcame differences between resident and academic researchers regarding the purposes of their initial survey. The academic team members preferred the data to be anonymous, to maximize the scientific legitimacy of their project (considered valuable for their credibility to policymakers), whereas the resident team wanted to use the opportunity to recruit residents to their cause, by collecting contact details. The team discussed their different objectives and produced the solution of two-person survey teams, one person gathering anonymous data for the research and a second person gathering contact details for the campaign’s contact list.

Articulating research questions is an early milestone. PAR questions prioritize community concerns, so they may differ from academic-driven research questions. For example, Buckles, Khedkar and Ghevde 39 facilitated a participatory process that developed questions along the lines of: What are the impacts of not having a land title for Katkari people? How will stakeholders respond to Katkari organizing, and what steps can Katkari communities take towards the goal of securing tenure? In another case, incarcerated women in New York state, USA, invited university academics to evaluate a local college in prison in the interest of building an empirical argument for the value of educational opportunities in prisons 38 , 48 Like other evaluations, it asked: “What is the impact of college on women in prison?” But instead of looking narrowly at the impact on re-offending as the relevant impact (as prioritized by politicians and policymakers), based on the incarcerated women’s advice, the evaluation tracked other outcomes: women’s well-being within the prison; their relationships with each other and the staff; their children; their sense of achievement; and their agency in their lives after incarceration.

As a PAR project develops, the problem definition and research questions are often refined through the iterative cycles. This evolution does not undermine the value of writing problem definitions and research questions in the early stages, as a collaboration benefits from having a common reference point to build from and from which to negotiate.

Observing, gathering and generating materials

With a common understanding of the problem, PAR teams design ways of observing the details and workings of this problem. PAR is not prescriptive about the methods used to gather or generate observations. Projects often use qualitative methods, such as storytelling, interviewing or ethnography, or participatory methods, such as body mapping, problem trees, guided walks, timelines, diaries, participatory photography and video or participatory theatre. Gathering quantitative data is an option, particularly in the tradition of participatory statistics 49 . Chilisa 5 distinguishes sources of spatial data, time-related data, social data and technical data. The selected methods should be engaging to the community and the co-researchers, suited to answering the research questions and supported by available professional skills. Means of recording the process or products, and of storing those records, need to be agreed, as well as ethical principles. Developing community members’ research skills for data collection and analysis can be a valued contribution to a PAR project, potentially generating longer-term capacities for local research and change-making 50 .

Our selection of data generation methods and their details depends upon the questions we ask. In some cases, methods to explore problem definitions and then to brainstorm potential actions, their risks and benefits will be useful (Supplementary file  3 ). Others may be less prescriptive about problems and solutions, seeking to explore experience in an open-ended way, as a basis for generating new understandings (see Supplementary file  2 for an example reflective participatory exercise).

Less-experienced practitioners may take a naive approach to PAR, which assumes that knowledge should emerge solely from an authentic community devoid of outside ideas. More established PAR researchers, however, work consciously to combine and exchange skills and knowledge through dialogue. Together with communities, we want to produce effective products, and we recognize that doing so may require specific skills. In Marzi’s 51 participatory video project with migrant women in Colombia, she engaged professional film-makers to provide the women with training in filming, editing and professional film production vocabulary. The women were given the role of directors, with the decision-making power over what to include and exclude in their film. In a Photovoice project with Black and Indigenous youth in Toronto, Canada, Tuck and Habtom 25 drew on their prior scholar–activist experience and their critical analysis of scholarship of marginalization, which often uses tropes of victimhood, passivity and sadness. Instead of repeating narratives of damage, they intended to encourage desire-based narratives. They supported their young participants to critically consider which photographs they wanted to include or exclude from public representations. Training participants to be expert users of research techniques does not devalue their existing expertise and skills, but takes seriously their role in co-producing valid, critical knowledge. University-based researchers equally benefit from training in facilitation methods, team development and the history and context of the community.

Data generation is relational, mediated by the positionalities of the researchers involved. As such, researchers position themselves across boundaries, and need to have, or to develop, skills in interpreting across boundaries. In the Tsui Anaa Project (Box  1 ) in Ghana, the project recruited Ga-speaking graduate students as researchers; Ga is the language most widely spoken in the community. The students were recruited not only for their language skills, but also for their Ga cultural sensibilities, reflected in their sense of humour and their intergenerational communicative styles, enabling fluid communication and mutual understanding with the community. In turn, two community representatives were recruited as advocates to represent patient perspectives across university and community boundaries.

University-based researchers trained in methodological rigour may need reminders that the process of a PAR project is as important as the outcome, and is part of the outcome. Facilitation skills are the most crucial skills for PAR practitioners at this stage. Productive facilitation skills encourage open conversation and collective understandings of the problem at hand and how to address it. More specifically, good facilitation requires a sensitivity to the ongoing and competing social context, such as power relations, within the group to help shift power imbalances and enable participation by all 52 . Box  3 presents a PAR project that exemplifies the importance of relationship building in a community arts project.

Box 3 Case study of the BRIDGE Project: relationship building and collective art making as social change

The BRIDGE Project was a 3-week long mosaic-making and dialogue programme for youth aged 14–18 years, in Southern California. For several summers, the project brought together students from different campuses to discuss inclusion, bullying and community. The goal was to help build enduring relationships among young people who otherwise would not have met or interacted, thereby mitigating the racial tensions that existed in their local high schools.

Youth were taught how to make broken tile mosaic artworks, facilitated through community-building exercises. After the first days, as relationships grew, so did the riskiness of the discussion topics. Youth explored ideas and beliefs that contribute to one’s individual sense of identity, followed by discussion of wider social identities around race, class, sex, gender, class, sexual orientation and finally their identities in relationship to others.

The art-making process was structured in a manner that mirrored the building of their relationships. Youth learned mosaic-making skills while creating individual pieces. They were discouraged from collaborating with anyone else until after the individual pieces were completed and they had achieved some proficiency. When discussions transitioned to focus on the relationship their identities had to each other, the facilitators assisted them in creating collaborative mosaics with small groups.

Staff facilitation modelled the relationship-building goal of the project. The collaborative art making was built upon the rule that no one could make any changes without asking for and receiving permission from the person or people who had placed the piece (or pieces) down. To encourage participants to engage with each other it was vital that they each felt comfortable to voice their opinions while simultaneously learning how to be accountable to their collaborators and respectful of others’ relationships to the art making.

The process culminated in the collective creation of a tile mosaic wall mural, which is permanently installed in the host site.

Collaborative analysis

In PAR projects, data collection and analysis are not typically isolated to different phases of research. Instead, a tried and tested approach to collaborative analysis 53 is to use generated data as a basis for reflection on commonalities, patterns, differences, underlying causes or potentials on an ongoing basis. For instance, body mapping, photography, or video projects often proceed through a series of workshops, with small-scale training–data collection–data analysis cycles in each workshop. Participants gather or produce materials in response to a prompt, and then come together to critically discuss the meaning of their productions.

Simultaneously, or later, a more formal data analysis may be employed, using established social science analytical tools such as grounded theory, thematic, content or discourse analysis, or other forms of visual or ethnographic analysis, with options for facilitated co-researcher involvement. The selection of a specific orientation or approach to analysis is often a low priority for community-based co-researchers. It may be appropriate for university-based researchers to take the lead on comprehensive analysis and the derivation of initial messages. Fine and Torre 29 describe the university-based researchers producing a “best bad draft” so that there is something on the table to react to and discuss. Given the multiple iterations of participants’ expressions of experiences and analyses by this stage, the university-based researchers should be in a position that their best bad draft is grounded in a good understanding of local perspectives and should not appear outlandish, one-sided or an imposition of outside ideas.

For the results and recommendations to reflect community interests, it is important to incorporate a step whereby community representatives can critically examine and contribute to emerging findings and core messages for the public, stakeholders or academic audiences.

Planning and taking action

Taking action is an integral part of a PAR process. What counts as action and change is different for each PAR project. Actions could be targeted at a wide range of scales and different stakeholders, with differing intended outcomes. Valid intended outcomes include creating supportive networks to share resources through mutual aid; empowering participants through sharing experiences and making sense of them collectively; using the emotional impact of artistic works to influence policymakers and journalists; mobilizing collective action to build community power; forging a coalition with other activist and advocacy groups; and many others. Selection between the options depends on underlying priorities, values, theories of how social change happens and, crucially, feasibility.

Articulating a theory of change is one way to demonstrate how we intend to bring about changes through designing an action plan. A theory of change identifies an action and a mechanism, directed at producing outcomes, for a target group, in a context. This device has often been used in donor-driven health and development contexts in a rather prescriptive way, but PAR teams can adapt the tool as a scaffolding for being explicit about action plans and as a basis for further discussions and development of those plans. Many health and development organizations (such as Better Evaluation ) have frameworks to help design a theory of change.

Alternatively, a community action plan 5 can serve as a tangible roadmap to produce change, by setting out objectives, strategies, timeline, key actors, required resources and the monitoring and evaluation framework.

Social change is not easy, and existing social systems benefit, some at the expense of others, and are maintained by power relations. In planning for action, analysis of the power relations at stake, the beneficiaries of existing systems and their potential resistance to change is crucial. It is often wise to assess various options for actions, their potential benefits, risks and ways of mitigating those risks. Sometimes a group may collectively decide to settle for relatively secure, and less-risky, small wins but with the building of sufficient power, a group may take on a bigger challenge 54 .

Ethical considerations are fundamental to every aspect of PAR. They include standard research ethics considerations traditionally addressed by research ethics committees or institutional review boards (IRBs), including key principles of avoidance of harm, anonymity and confidentiality, and voluntary informed consent, although these issues may become much more complex than traditionally presented, when working within a PAR framework 55 . PAR studies typically benefit from IRBs that can engage with the relational specificities of a case, with a flexible and iterative approach to research design with communities, instead of being beholden to very strict and narrow procedures. Wilson and colleagues 56 provide a comprehensive review of ethical challenges in PAR.

Beyond procedural research ethics perspectives, relational ethics are important to PAR projects and raise crucial questions regarding the purpose and conduct of knowledge production and application 37 , 57 , 58 . Relational ethics encourage an emphasis on inclusive practices, dialogue, mutual respect and care, collective decision-making and collaborative action 57 . Questions posed by Indigenous scholars seeking to decolonize Western knowledge production practices are pertinent to a relational ethics approach 4 , 28 . These include: Who designs and manages the research process? Whose purposes does the research serve? Whose worldviews are reproduced? Who decides what counts as knowledge? Why is this knowledge produced? Who benefits from this knowledge? Who determines which aspects of the research will be written up, disseminated and used, and how? Addressing such questions requires scholars to attend to the ethical practices of cultivating trusting and reciprocal relationships with participants and ensuring that the organizations, communities and persons involved co-govern and benefit from the project.

Reflecting on the ethics of her PAR project with young undocumented students in the USA, Cahill 55 highlights some of the intensely complex ethical issues of representation that arose and that will face many related projects. Determining what should be shared with which audiences is intensely political and ethical. Cahill’s team considered editing out stories of dropping out to avoid feeding negative stereotypes. They confronted the dilemma of framing a critique of a discriminatory educational system, while simultaneously advocating that this flawed system should include undocumented students. They faced another common dilemma of how to stay true to their structural analysis of the sources of harms, while engaging decision-makers invested in the current status quo. These complex ethical–political issues arise in different forms in many PAR projects. No answer can be prescribed, but scholar–activists can prepare themselves by reading past case studies and being open to challenging debates with co-researchers.

The knowledge built by PAR is explicitly knowledge-for-action, informed by the relational ethical considerations of who and what the knowledge is for. PAR builds both  local knowledge and conceptual knowledge. As a first step, PAR can help us to reflect locally, collectively, on our circumstances, priorities, diverse identities, causes of problems and potential routes to tackle them.

Such local knowledge might be represented in the form of statistical findings from a community survey, analyses of participants’ verbal or visual data, or analyses of workshop discussions. Findings may include elements such as an articulation of the status quo of a community issue; a participatory analysis of root causes and/or actionable elements of the problem; a power analysis of stakeholders; asset mapping; assessment of local needs and priorities. Analysis goes beyond the surface problems, to identify underlying roots of problems to inform potential lines of action.

Simultaneously, PAR also advances more global conceptual knowledge. As liberation theorists have noted, developments in societal understandings of inequalities, marginalization and liberation are often led by those battling such processes daily. For example, the young Black and Indigenous participants working with Tuck and Habtom 25 in Toronto, Canada, engaged as co-theorists in their project about the significance of social movements to young people and their post-secondary school futures. Through their photography project, they expressed how place, and its history, particularly histories of settler colonialism, matters in cities — against a more standard view that treated the urban as somehow interchangeable, modern or neutral. The authors argue for altered conceptions of urban and urban education scholarly literatures, in response to this youth-led knowledge.

A key skill in the art of PAR is in creating achievable actions by choosing a project that is engaging and ambitious with achievable elements, even where structures are resistant to change. PAR projects can produce actions across a wide range of scales (from ‘small, local’ to ‘large, structural’) and across different temporal scales. Some PAR projects are part of decades-long programmes. Within those programmes, an individual PAR project, taking place over 12 or 24 months, might make one small step in the process towards long-term change.

For example, an educational project with young people living in communities vulnerable to flooding in Brazil developed a portfolio of actions, including a seminar, a native seeds fair, support to an individual family affected by a landslide, a campaign for a safe environment for a children’s pre-school, a tree nursery at school and influencing the city’s mayor to extend the environmental project to all schools in the area 30 .

Often the ideal scenario is that such actions lead to material changes in the power of a community. Over the course of a 5-year journey, the Katkari community (Box  1 ) worked with PAR researchers to build community power to resist eviction. The community team compiled households’ proof of residence; documented the history of land use and housing; engaged local government about their situations and plans; and participated more actively in village life to cultivate support 39 . The university-based researchers collected land deeds and taught sessions on land rights, local government and how to acquire formal papers. They opened conversations with the local government on legal, ethical and practical issues. Collectively, their legal knowledge and groundwork gave them confidence to remove fencing erected by landlords and to take legal action to regularize their land rights, ultimately leading to 70 applications being made for formal village sites. This comprised a tangible change in the power relation between landlords and the communities. Even here, however, the authors do not simply celebrate their achievements, but recognize that power struggles are ongoing, landlords would continue to aggressively pursue their interests, and, thus, their achievements were provisional and would require vigilance and continued action.

Most crucially, PAR projects aim to develop university-based and community-based researchers’ collective agency, by building their capacities for collaboration, analysis and action. More specifically, collaborators develop multiple transferable skills, which include skills in conducting research, operating technology, designing outputs, leadership, facilitation, budgeting, networking and public speaking 31 , 59 , 60 .

University-based researchers build their own key capacities through exercising and developing skills, including those for collaboration, facilitation, public engagement and impact. Strong PAR projects may build capacities within the university to sustain long-term relationships with community projects, such as modified and improved infrastructures that work well with PAR modalities, appreciation of the value of long-term sustained reciprocal relations and personal and organizational relationships with communities outside the university.


PAR disrupts the traditional theory–application binary, which usually assumes that abstract knowledge is developed through basic science, to then be interpreted and applied in professional or community contexts. PAR projects are always applied in the sense that they are situated in concrete human and social problems and aim to produce workable local actions. PAR is a very flexible approach. A version of a PAR project could be devised to tackle almost any real-world problem — where the researchers are committed to an emancipatory and participatory epistemology. If one can identify a group of people interested in collectively generating knowledge-for-action in their own context or about their own practices, and as long as the researchers are willing and able to share power, the methods set out in this Primer could be applied to devise a PAR project.

PAR is consonant with participatory movements across multiple disciplines and sectors, and thus finds many intellectual homes. Its application is supported by social movements for inclusion, equity, representation of multiple voices, empowerment and emancipation. For instance, PAR responds to the value “nothing about us without us”, which has become a central tenet of disability studies. In youth studies, PAR is used to enhance the power of young people’s voices. In development studies, PAR has a long foundation as part of the demand for greater participation, to support locally appropriate, equitable and locally owned changes. In health-care research, PAR is used by communities of health professionals to reflect and improve on their own practices. PAR is used by groups of health-care service users or survivors to give a greater collective power to the voices of those at the sharp end of health care, often delegitimized by medical power. In environmental sciences, PAR can support local communities to take action to protect their environments. In community psychology, PAR is valued for its ability to nurture supportive and inclusive processes. In summary, PAR can be applied in a huge variety of contexts in which local ownership of research is valued.

Limitations to PAR’s application often stem from the institutional context. In certain (often dominant) academic circles, local knowledge is not valued, and contextually situated, problem-focused, research may be considered niche, applied or not generalizable. Hence, research institutions may not be set up to be responsive to a community’s situation or needs or to support scholar–activists working at the research–action boundary. Further, those who benefit from, or are comfortable with, the status quo of a community may actively resist attempts at change from below and may undermine PAR projects. In other cases, where a community is very divided or dispersed, PAR may not be the right approach. There are plenty of examples of PAR projects floundering, failing to create an active group or to achieve change, or completely falling through. Even such failures, however, shed light on the conditions of communities and the power relations they inhabit and offer lessons on ways of working and not working with groups in those situations.

Reproducibility and data deposition

Certain aspects of the open science movement can be productively engaged from within a PAR framework, whereas others are incompatible. A key issue is that PAR researchers do not strive for reproducibility, and many would contest the applicability of this construct. Nonetheless, there may be resonances between the open science principle of making information publicly available for re-use and those PAR projects that aim to render visible and audible the experience of a historically under-represented or mis-represented community. PAR projects that seek to represent previously hidden realities of, for example, environmental degradation, discriminatory experiences at the hands of public services, the social history of a traditionally marginalized group, or their neglected achievements, may consider creating and making public robust databases of information, or social history archives, with explicit informed permission of the relevant communities. For such projects, making knowledge accessible is an essential part of the action. Publicly relevant information should not be sequestered behind paywalls. PAR practitioners should thus plan carefully for cataloguing, storing and archiving information, and maintaining archives.

On the other hand, however, a blanket assumption that all data should be made freely available is rarely appropriate in a PAR project and may come into conflict with ethical priorities. Protecting participants’ confidentiality can mean that data cannot be made public. Protecting a community from reputational harm, in the context of widespread dehumanization, criminalization or stigmatization of dispossessed groups, may require protection of their privacy, especially if their lives or coping strategies are already pathologized 25 . Empirical materials do not belong to university-based researchers as data and cannot be treated as an academic commodity to be opened to other researchers. Open science practices should not extend to the opening of marginalized communities to knowledge exploitation by university researchers.

The principle of reproducibility is not intuitively meaningful to PAR projects, given their situated nature, that is, the fact that PAR is inherently embedded in particular concrete contexts and relationships 61 . Beyond reproducibility, other forms of mutual learning and cross-case learning are vitally important. We see increasing research fatigue in communities used, extractively, for research that does not benefit them. PAR teams should assess what research has been done in a setting to avoid duplication and wasting people’s time and should clearly prioritize community benefit. At the same time, PAR projects also aspire to produce knowledge with wider implications, typically discussed under the term generalizability or transferability. They do so by articulating how the project speaks to social, political, theoretical and methodological debates taking place in wider knowledge communities, in a form of “communicative generalisation” 62 . Collaborating and sharing experiences across PAR sites through visits, exchanges and joint analysis can help to generalize experiences 30 , 61 .

Limitations and optimizations

PAR projects often challenge the social structures that reproduce established power relations. In this section, we outline common challenges to PAR projects, to prompt early reflection. When to apply a workaround, compromise, concede, refuse or regroup and change strategy are decisions that each PAR team should make collectively. We do not have answers to all the concerns raised but offer mitigations that have been found useful.

Institutional infrastructure

Universities’ interests in partnerships with communities, local relevance, being outward-facing, public engagement and achieving social impact can help to create a supportive environment for PAR research. Simultaneously, university bureaucracies and knowledge hierarchies that prize their scientists as individuals rather than collaborators and that prioritize the methods of dominant science can undermine PAR projects 63 . When Cowan, Kühlbrandt and Riazuddin 45 proposed using gaming, drama, fiction and film-making for a project engaging young people in thinking about scientific futures, a grants manager responded “But this project can’t just be about having fun activities for kids — where is the research in what you’re proposing?” Research infrastructures are often slow and reluctant to adapt to innovations in creative research approaches.

Research institutions’ funding time frames are also often out of sync with those of communities — being too extended in some ways and too short in others 45 , 64 . Securing funding takes months and years, especially if there are initial rejections or setbacks. Publishing findings takes further years. For community-based partners, a year is a long time to wait and to maintain people’s interest. On the other hand, grant funding for one-off projects over a year or two (or even five) is rarely sufficient to create anything sustainable, reasserting precarity and short-termism. Institutions can better support PAR through infrastructure such as bridging funds between grants, secure staff appointments and institutional recognition and resources for community partners.

University infrastructures can value the long-term partnership working of PAR scholars by recognizing partnership-building as a respected element of an academic career and recognizing collaborative research as much as individual academic celebrity. Where research infrastructures are unsupportive, building relationships within the university with like-minded professional and academic colleagues, to share work-arounds and advocate collectively, can be very helpful. Other colleagues might have developed mechanisms to pay co-researchers, or to pay in advance for refreshments, speed up disbursement of funds, or deal with an ethics committee, IRB, finance office or thesis examiner who misunderstands participatory research. PAR scholars can find support in university structures beyond the research infrastructure, such as those concerned with knowledge exchange and impact, campus–community partnerships, extension activities, public engagement or diversity and inclusion 64 . If PAR is institutionally marginalized, exploring and identifying these work-arounds is extremely labour intensive and depends on the cultivation of human, social and cultural capital over many years, which is not normally available to graduate students or precariously employed researchers. Thus, for PAR to be realized, institutional commitment is vital.

Co-option by powerful structures

When PAR takes place in collaboration or engagement with powerful institutions such as government departments, health services, religious organizations, charities or private companies, co-option is a significant risk. Such organizations experience social pressure to be inclusive, diverse, responsive to communities and participatory, so they may be tempted to engage communities in consultation, without redistributing power. For instance, when ‘photovoice’ projects invite politicians to exhibitions of photographs, their activity may be co-opted to serving the politician’s interest in being seen to express support, but result in no further action. There is a risk that using PAR in such a setting risks tokenizing marginalized voices 65 . In one of our current projects, co-researchers explore the framing of sexual violence interventions in Zambia, aiming to promote greater community agency and reduce the centrality of approaches dominated by the Global North 66 . One of the most challenging dilemmas is the need to involve current policymakers in discussions without alienating them. The advice to ‘be realistic’, ‘be reasonable’ or ‘play the game’ to keep existing power brokers at the table creates one of the most difficult tensions for PAR scholars 48 .

We also caution against scholars idealizing PAR as an ideal, egalitarian, inclusive or perfect process. The term ‘participation’ has become a policy buzzword, invoked in a vaguely positive way to strengthen an organization’s case that they have listened to people. It can equally be used by researchers to claim a moral high ground without disrupting power relations. Depriving words of their associated actions, Freire 7 warns us, leads to ‘empty blah’, because words gain their meaning in being harnessed to action. Labelling our work PAR does not make it emancipatory, without emancipatory action. Equally, Freire cautions against acting without the necessary critical reflection.

To avoid romanticization or co-option, PAR practitioners benefit from being held accountable to their shared principles and commitments by their critical networks and collaborators. Our commitments to community colleagues and to action should be as real for us as any institutional pressures on us. Creating an environment for that accountability is vital. Box  4 offers a project exemplar featuring key considerations regarding power concerns.

Box 4 Case study: participatory power and its vulnerability

Júba Wajiín is a pueblo in a rural mountainous region in the lands now called Guerrero, Mexico, long inhabited by the Me’phaa people, who have fiercely resisted precolonial, colonial and postcolonial displacement and dispossession. Using collective participatory action methods, this small pueblo launched and won a long legal battle that now challenges extractive mining practices.

Between 2001 and 2012, the Mexican government awarded massive mining concessions to mining companies. The people of Júba Wajiín discovered in mid-2013 that, unbeknown to them, concessions for mining exploration of their lands had been awarded to the British-based mining company Horschild Mexico. They engaged human rights activists who used participatory action research methods to create awareness and to launch a legal battle. Tlachinollan, a regional human rights organization, held legal counselling workshops and meetings with local authorities and community elders.

The courts initially rejected the case by denying that residents could be identified as Indigenous because they practised Catholicism and spoke Spanish. A media organization, La Sandia Digital , supported the community to collectively document their syncretic religious and spiritual practices, their ability to speak Mhe’paa language and their longstanding agrarian use of the territory. They produced a documentary film Juba Wajiin: Resistencia en la Montaña , providing visual legal evidence.

After winning in the District court, they took the case to the Supreme Court, asking it to review the legality and validity of the mining concessions. Horschild, along with other mining companies, stopped contesting the case, which led to the concessions being null and void.

The broader question of Indigenous peoples’ territorial rights continued in the courts until mid-2022 when the Supreme Court ruled that Indigenous peoples had the constitutional right to be consulted before any mining activities in their territory. This was a win, but a partial one. ‘Consultations’ are often manipulated by state and private sectors, particularly among groups experiencing dire impoverishment. Júba Wajiín’s strategies proved successful but the struggle against displacement and dispossession is continual.

Power inequalities within PAR

Power inequalities also affect PAR teams and communities. For all the emphasis on egalitarian relationships and dialogue, communities and PAR teams are typically composed of actors with unequal capacities and powers, introducing highly complex challenges for PAR teams.

Most frequently, university-based researchers engaging with marginalized communities do not themselves share many aspects of the identities or life experiences of those communities. They often occupy different, often more privileged, social networks, income brackets, racialized identities, skill sets and access to resources. Evidently, the premise of PAR is that people with different lives can productively collaborate, but gulfs in life experience and privilege can yield difficult tensions and challenges. Expressions of discomfort, dissatisfaction or anger in PAR projects are often indicative of power inequalities and an opportunity to interrogate and challenge hierarchies. Scholars must work hard to undo their assumptions about where expertise and insights may lie. A first step can be to develop an analysis of a scholar’s own participation in the perpetuation of inequalities. Projects can be designed to intentionally redistribute power, by redistributing skills, responsibilities and authority, or by redesigning core activities to be more widely accessible. For instance, Marzi 51 in a participatory video project, used role swapping to distribute the leadership roles of chairing meetings, choosing themes for focus and editing, among all the participants.

Within communities, there are also power asymmetries. The term ‘community participation’ itself risks homogenizing a community, such that one or a small number of representatives are taken to qualify as the community. Yet, communities are characterized by diversity as much as by commonality, with differences across sociological lines such as class, race, gender, age, occupation, housing tenure and health status. Having the time, resources and ability to participate is unlikely to be evenly distributed. Some people need to devote their limited time to survival and care of others. For some, the embodied realities of health conditions and disabilities make participation in research projects difficult or undesirable 67 . If there are benefits attached to participation, careful attention to the distribution of such benefits is needed, as well as critical awareness of the positionality of those involved and those excluded. Active efforts to maximize accessibility are important, including paying participants for their valued time; providing accommodations for people with health conditions, disabilities, caring responsibilities or other specific needs; and designing participatory activities that are intuitive to a community’s typical modes of communication.

Lack of control and unpredictability

For researchers accustomed to leading research by taking responsibility to drive a project to completion, using the most rigorous methods possible, to achieve stated objectives, the collaborative, iterative nature of PAR can raise personal challenges. Sense 68 likens the facilitative role of a PAR practitioner to “trying to drive the bus from the rear passenger seat—wanting to genuinely participate as a passenger but still wanting some degree of control over the destination”. PAR works best with collaborative approaches to leadership and identities among co-researchers as active team members, facilitators and participants in a research setting, prepared to be flexible and responsive to provocations from the situation and from co-researchers and to adjust project plans accordingly 28 , 68 , 69 . The complexities involved in balancing control issues foreground the importance of reflexive practice for all team members to learn together through dialogue 70 . Training and socialization into collaborative approaches to leadership and partnership are crucial supports. Well-functioning collaborative ways of working are also vital, as their trusted structure can allow co-researchers to ‘trust the process’, and accept uncertainties, differing perspectives, changes of emphasis and disruptions of assumptions. We often want surprises in PAR projects, as they show that we are learning something new, and so we need to be prepared to accept disruption.

The PAR outlook is caught up in the ongoing history of the push and pull of popular movements for the recognition of local knowledge and elite movements to centralize authority and power in frameworks such as universal science, professional ownership of expertise, government authority or evidence-based policy. As a named methodological paradigm, PAR gained legitimacy and recognition during the 1980s, with origins in popular education for development, led by scholars from the Global South 16 , 32 , and taken up in the more Global-North-dominated field of international development, where the failings of externally imposed, contextually insensitive development solutions had become undeniable 21 . Over the decades, PAR has both participated in radical social movements and risked co-option and depoliticization as it became championed by powerful institutions, and it is in this light that we consider PAR’s relation to three contemporary societal movements.

Decolonizing or re-powering

The development of PAR took place in tandem with anti-colonial movements and discourses during the 1970s and 1980s, in which the colonization of land, people and knowledge were all at stake. During the mid-2010s, calls for decolonization of the university were forced onto the agenda of the powerful by various groups, including African students and youth leading the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’, ‘Fees must Fall’ and ‘Gandhi must Fall’ movements 71 , followed by the eruption of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 (ref. 72 ). PAR is a methodology that stands to contribute to decolonization-colonization through the development of alternatives to centralizing knowledge and power. As such, the vitality of local and global movements demanding recognition of grassroots knowledge and the dismantling of oppressive historical power–knowledge systems heralds many openings and exciting potential collaborations and causes for PAR practitioners 73 , 74 . As these demands make themselves felt in powerful institutions, they create openings for PAR.

Yet, just as PAR has been subject to co-option and depoliticization, the concept of decolonization too is at risk of appropriation by dominant groups and further tokenization of Indigenous groups, as universities, government departments and global health institutions absorb the concept, fitting it into their existing power structures 41 , 75 . In this context, Indigenous theorists in Aotearoa/New Zealand are working on an alternative concept of ‘re-powering Indigenous knowledge’ instead of ‘decolonizing knowledge’. By doing so, they centre Indigenous people and their knowledge, instead of the knowledge or actions of colonizers, and foreground the necessity of changes to power relations. African and African American scholars working on African heritage and political agency have drawn on the Akan philosophy of Sankofa for a similar purpose 76 . Sankofa derives from a Twi proverb Se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenkyiri (It is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind). Going back to fetch what is lost is a self-grounded act that draws on the riches of Indigenous history to re-imagine and restructure the future 77 . It is also an act independent of the colonial and colonizing gaze. Contributing to a mid-twenty-first century re-powering community knowledge is a promising vision for PAR. More broadly, the loud voices and visionary leadership of contemporary anti-racist, anti-colonial, Indigenous, intersectional feminist and other emancipatory movements provide a vibrant context to re-invent and renew PAR.


In fields concerned with health and public service provision, a renewed discourse of respectful engagement with communities and service users has centred in recent years on the concept of  co-production 78 . In past iterations, concepts such as citizen engagement, patient participation, community participation and community mobilization had a similar role. Participatory methods have proved their relevance within such contexts, for example, providing actionable and wise insights to clinicians seeking to learn from patients, or to providers of social services seeking to target their services better. Thus, the introduction of co-production may create a receptive environment for PAR in public services. Yet again, if users are participating in something, critical PAR scholars should question in which structures they are participating, instantiating which power relations and to whose benefit. PAR scholars can find themselves compromised by institutional requirements. Identifying potential compromises, lines that cannot be crossed and areas where compromises can be made; negotiating with institutional orders; and navigating discomfort and even conflict are key skills for practitioners of PAR within institutional settings.

One approach to engaging with institutional structures has been to gather evidence for the value of PAR, according to the measures and methods of dominant science. Anyon and colleagues 59 systematically reviewed the Youth PAR literature in the United States. They found emerging evidence that PAR produces positive outcomes for youth and argued for further research using experimental designs to provide harder evidence. They make the pragmatic argument that funding bodies require certain forms of evidence to justify funding, and so PAR would benefit by playing by those rules.

A different approach, grounded in politics rather than the academy, situates co-production as sustained by democratic struggles. In the context of sustainability research in the Amazon, for instance, Perz and colleagues 79 argue that the days of externally driven research are past. Mobilization by community associations, Indigenous federations, producer cooperatives and labour unions to demand influence over the governance of natural resources goes hand in hand with expectations of local leadership and ownership of research, often implemented through PAR. These approaches critically question the desirability of institutional, external funding or even non-monetary support for a particular PAR project.

Global–local inequality and solidarity

Insufferable global and local inequalities continue to grow, intensified by climate catastrophes, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and extreme concentrations of wealth and political influence, and contested by increasingly impactful analyses, protests and refusals by those disadvantaged and discriminated against. Considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on PAR projects, Auerbach and colleagues 64 identify increasing marketization and austerity in some universities, and the material context of growing pressure on marginalized communities to simply meet their needs for survival, leaving little capacity for participating in and building long-term partnerships. They describe university-based researchers relying on their own capacities to invent new modes of digital collaboration and nourish their partnerships with communities, often despite limited institutional support.

We suggest that building solidaristic networks, and thus building collective power, within and beyond universities offers the most promising grounding for a fruitful outlook for PAR. PAR scholars can find solidarity across a range of disciplines, traditions, social movements, topics and geographical locations. Doing so offers to bridge traditions, share strategies and resonances, build methodologies and politics, and crucially, build power. In global health research, Abimbola and colleagues 80 call for the building of Southern networks to break away from the dominance of North–South partnerships. They conceptualize the South not only as a geographical location, as there are of course knowledge elites in the South, but as the communities traditionally marginalized from centres of authority and power. We suggest that PAR can best maximize its societal contribution and its own development and renewal by harnessing the diverse wisdom of knowledge generation and participatory methods across Southern regions and communities, using that wisdom to participate in global solidarities and demands for redistribution of knowledge, wealth and power.

Kemmis, S., McTaggart, R. & Nixon, R. in The SAGE Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice (eds Reason, P. & Bradbury, H.) 453–464 (Sage, 2015).

Kindon, S., Pain, R. & Kesby, M. Participatory Action Research Approaches and Methods: Connecting People, Participation and Place (Routledge, 2007). A classic, reflective and practical, all-rounder PAR textbook, with a social science/geography orientation and a Global North origin.

McIntyre, A. Participatory Action Research (Sage, 2007).

Smith, L. T. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (Bloomsbury, 2021). A foundational book in decolonization and Indigenous methods, including theory, critique and methodological guidance, rooted in Indigenous thought in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Chilisa, B. Indigenous Research Methodologies (Sage, 2019). A thorough and accessible grounding in the epistemology, methodology and methods of postcolonial, Indigenous research, suitable for a wide audience and rooted in African knowledge systems.

Fals-Borda, O. & Rahman, M. A. Action and Knowledge (Practical Action Publishing, 1991).

Freire, P. Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Continuum, 1970).

Rahman, M. A. in The SAGE Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice (eds Reason, P. & Bradbury, H.) 49–62 (Sage, 2008).

Fanon, F. The Wretched of the Earth (Penguin, 1963).

Crenshaw, K. Mapping the margins: intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanf. Law Rev. 43 , 1241–1299 (1991).

Article   Google Scholar  

Mama, A. Beyond the Masks: Race, Gender, and Subjectivity (Psychology Press, 1995).

Lewin, K. Action research and minority problems. J. Soc. Issues 11 , 34–46 (1946).

Reason, P. & Bradbury, H. The Sage Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice (Sage, 2015).

Le Grange, L. Challenges for participatory action research and indigenous knowledge in Africa. Acta Acad. 33 , 136 (0000).

Google Scholar  

Caxaj, C. S. Indigenous storytelling and participatory action research: allies toward decolonization? Reflections from the Peoples’ International Health Tribunal. Glob. Qual. Nurs. Res. 2 , 2333393615580764 (2015).

Díaz-Arévalo, J. M. In search of the ontology of participation in Participatory Action Research: Orlando Fals-Borda’s Participatory Turn, 1977–1980. Action Res. (2022).

McKittrick, K. Dear Science and Other Stories (Duke Univ. Press, 2021).

Mohanty, C. T. Under Western eyes: feminist scholarship and colonial discourses. Bound. 2 12/13 , 333–358 (1984).

Lewin, K. Action research and minority problems. J. Soc. Issues 2 , 34–46 (1946).

Adelman, C. Kurt Lewin and the origins of action research. Educ. Action Res. 1 , 7–24 (1993).

Chambers, R. The origins and practice of participatory rural appraisal. World Dev. 22 , 953–969 (1994).

Cornwall, A. & Jewkes, R. What is participatory research? Soc. Sci. Med. 41 , 1667–1676 (1995).

Wallerstein, N. & Duran, B. Community-based participatory research contributions to intervention research: the intersection of science and practice to improve health equity. Am. J. Public Health 100 , S40–S46 (2010).

Wang, C. & Burris, M. A. Photovoice: concept, methodology, and use for participatory needs assessment. Health Educ. Behav. 24 , 369–387 (1997).

Tuck, E. & Habtom, S. Unforgetting place in urban education through creative participatory visual methods. Educ. Theory 69 , 241–256 (2019).

Kaba, M. We Do This’Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice (Haymarket Books, 2021).

Toraif, N. et al. How to be an antiracist: youth of color’s critical perspectives on antiracism in a youth participatory action research context. J. Adolesc. Res. 36 , 467–500 (2021).

Akom, A. A. A. Black emancipatory action research: integrating a theory of structural racialisation into ethnographic and participatory action research methods. Ethnogr. Educ. 6 , 113–131 (2011).

Fine, M. & Torre, M. E. Critical participatory action research: a feminist project for validity and solidarity. Psychol. Women Q. 43 , 433–444 (2019).

Trajber, R. et al. Promoting climate change transformation with young people in Brazil: participatory action research through a looping approach. Action Res. 17 , 87–107 (2019).

Marzi, S. Co-producing impact-in-process with participatory audio-visual research. Area (2022).

Fals-Borda, O. The application of participatory action-research in Latin America. Int. Sociol. 2 , 329–347 (1987).

Liboiron, M. Pollution is Colonialism (Duke Univ. Press, 2021).

Babington, P. Ageing well in Bournville: a participative action research project. Rural. Theol. 15 , 84–96 (2017).

Elder, B. C. & Odoyo, K. O. Multiple methodologies: using community-based participatory research and decolonizing methodologies in Kenya. Int. J. Qual. Stud. Educ. 31 , 293–311 (2018).

Frisby, W., Reid, C. J., Millar, S. & Hoeber, L. Putting “Participatory” into participatory forms of action research. J. Sport Manag. 19 , 367–386 (2005).

King, P., Hodgetts, D., Rua, M. & Te Whetu, T. Older men gardening on the marae: everyday practices for being Māori. Altern. Int. J. Indig. Scholarsh. 11 , 14–28 (2015).

Fine, M. et al. Changing Minds: The Impact of College in a Maximum-Security Prison. Effects on Women in Prison, the Prison Environment, Reincarceration Rates and Post-Release Outcomes . (2001).

Buckles, D., Khedkar, R. & Ghevde, B. Fighting eviction: local learning and the experience of inequality among India’s adivāsi. Action. Res. 13 , 262–280 (2015). A strong example of a sustained university–community partnership in India that used PAR to build expertise and power in a tribal community to improve their security of tenure.

Vecchio, D. D., Toomey, N. & Tuck, E. Placing photovoice: participatory action research with undocumented migrant youth in the Hudson Valley. Crit. Questions Educ. 8 , 358–376 (2017).

Tuck, E. & Yang, K. W. Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization Indigeneity Educ. Soc. 1 , 1–40 (2012).

Lucko, J. Positionality and power in PAR: exploring the competing motivations of PAR stakeholders with latinx middle school students in Northern California. in Education | Faculty Conference Presentations (Dominican Univ., 2018).

Herr, K. & Anderson, G. The Action Research Dissertation: A Guide for Students and Faculty (SAGE, 2005).

Alejandro, A. Reflexive discourse analysis: a methodology for the practice of reflexivity. Eur. J. Int. Relat. 27 , 150–174 (2021).

Cowan, H., Kühlbrandt, C. & Riazuddin, H. Reordering the machinery of participation with young people. Sociol. Health Illn. 44 , 90–105 (2022).

Buettgen, A. et al. We did it together: a participatory action research study on poverty and disability. Disabil. Soc. 27 , 603–616 (2012).

Thurber, A., Collins, L., Greer, M., McKnight, D. & Thompson, D. Resident experts: The potential of critical Participatory Action Research to inform public housing research and practice. Action Res. 18 , 414–432 (2020).

Sandwick, T. et al. Promise and provocation: humble reflections on critical participatory action research for social policy. Urban. Educ. 53 , 473–502 (2018).

Holland, J. & Chambers, R. Who Counts? (Practical Action Publishing, 2013).

Percy-Smith, B. & Burns, D. Exploring the role of children and young people as agents of change in sustainable community development. Local. Environ. 18 , 323–339 (2013).

Marzi, S. Participatory video from a distance: co-producing knowledge during the COVID-19 pandemic using smartphones. Qual. Res. (2021).

Schoonen, A., Wood, L. & Kruger, C. Learning to facilitate community-based research: guidelines from a novice researcher. Educ. Res. Soc. Change 10 , 16–32 (2021).

Cornish, F., Gillespie, A. & Zittoun, T. in The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis (ed. Flick, U.) 79–93 (Sage, 2013).

Burgess, R. A. Working in the wake: transformative global health in an imperfect world. BMJ Glob. Health 7 , e010520 (2022).

Cahill, C. Repositioning ethical commitments: participatory action research as a relational praxis of social change. ACME Int. J. Crit. Geogr. 6 , 360–373 (2007).

Wilson, E., Kenny, A. & Dickson-Swift, V. Ethical challenges in community-based participatory research: a scoping review. Qual. Health Res. 28 , 189–199 (2018).

Hodgetts, D. et al. Relational ethics meets principled practice in community research engagements to understand and address homelessness. J. Community Psychol. 50 , 1980–1992 (2022).

Hopner, V. & Liu, J. C. Relational ethics and epistemology: the case for complementary first principles in psychology. Theory Psychol. 31 , 179–198 (2021).

Anyon, Y., Bender, K., Kennedy, H. & Dechants, J. A systematic review of youth participatory action research (YPAR) in the United States: methodologies, youth outcomes, and future directions. Health Educ. Behav. 45 , 865–878 (2018).

de-Graft Aikins, A. et al. Building cardiovascular disease competence in an urban poor Ghanaian community: a social psychology of participation approach. J. Community Appl. Soc. Psychol. 30 , 419–440 (2020).

Feldman, S. & Shaw, L. The epistemological and ethical challenges of archiving and sharing qualitative data. Am. Behav. Sci. 63 , 699–721 (2019).

Cornish, F. Communicative generalisation: dialogical means of advancing knowledge through a case study of an ‘unprecedented’ disaster. Cult. Psychol. 26 , 78–95 (2020).

Anderson, G. Participatory action research (PAR) as democratic disruption: new public management and educational research in schools and universities. Int. J. Qual. Stud. Educ. 30 , 432–449 (2017).

Auerbach, J. et al. Displacement of the Scholar? Participatory action research under COVID-19. Front. Sustain. Food Syst. 6 , 762065 (2022).

Levac, L., Ronis, S., Cowper-Smith, Y. & Vaccarino, O. A scoping review: the utility of participatory research approaches in psychology. J. Community Psychol. 47 , 1865–1892 (2019).

Breton, N. N. Reflecting on our good intentions: a critical discourse analysis of women’s health and empowerment discourses in sexual and gender-based violence policies relevant to southern Africa. Glob. Public Health (2022).

de-Graft Aikins, A. Healer shopping in Africa: new evidence from rural-urban qualitative study of Ghanaian diabetes experiences. BMJ 331 , 737 (2005).

Sense, A. J. Driving the bus from the rear passenger seat: control dilemmas of participative action research. Int. J. Soc. Res. Methodol. 9 , 1–13 (2006).

Dawson, M. C. & Sinwell, L. Ethical and political challenges of participatory action research in the academy: reflections on social movements and knowledge production in South Africa. Soc. Mov. Stud. 11 , 177–191 (2012).

Dadich, A., Moore, L. & Eapen, V. What does it mean to conduct participatory research with Indigenous peoples? A lexical review. BMC Public Health 19 , 1388 (2019).

Bhambra, G. K., Gebrial, D. & Nisancioglu, K. in Decolonising the University (eds Bhambra, G. K., Gebrial, D. & Nişancıoğlu, K.) 1–18 (Pluto Press, 2018).

Seckinelgin, H. Teaching social policy as if students matter: decolonizing the curriculum and perpetuating epistemic injustice. Crit. Soc. Policy (2022).

Fine, M. Just methods in revolting times. Qual. Res. Psychol. 13 , 347–365 (2016).

Fine, M. Just Research in Contentious Times: Widening the Methodological Imagination (Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 2018). An inspiring PAR book, addressing complex challenges and transformational potentials of PAR, based on the author’s wide-ranging, deep and long-standing experience with PAR in the USA.

Hirsch, L. A. Is it possible to decolonise global health institutions? Lancet 397 , 189–190 (2021).

Chigumadzi, P. Sankofa and the afterlives of Makerere. Los Angeles Review of Books (2021).

Gumbonzvanda, N., Gumbonzvanda, F. & Burgess, R. Decolonising the ‘safe space’ as an African innovation: the Nhanga as quiet activism to improve women’s health and wellbeing. Crit. Public Health 31 , 169–181 (2021).

Tembo, D. et al. Effective engagement and involvement with community stakeholders in the co-production of global health research. BMJ 372 , n178 (2021).

Perz, S. G. et al. Participatory action research for conservation and development: experiences from the Amazon. Sustainability 14 , 233 (2022).

Abimbola, S. et al. Addressing power asymmetries in global health: imperatives in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. PLoS Med. 18 , e1003604 (2021).

O’Leary, Z. The Essential Guide to Doing Research (Sage, 2004).

Koshy, E., Koshy, V. & Waterman, H. Action Research in Healthcare (Sage, 2011).

Download references


The authors thank their PAR collaborators and teachers, who have shown us how to take care of each other, our communities and environments. They thank each other for generating such a productive critical thinking space and extending care during challenging times.

Author information

Authors and affiliations.

Department of Methodology, London School of Economics & Political Science, London, UK

Flora Cornish & Nancy Breton

Departmento de Gestion para el Desarrollo Sustentable, CONACyT–Universidad Autonoma de Guerrero, Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico

Ulises Moreno-Tabarez

Department of Communication Studies, California State University, Northridge, CA, USA

Jenna Delgado

Māori Studies, University of Auckland, Auckland, Aotearoa, New Zealand

Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London, London, UK

Ama de-Graft Aikins

School of Psychology, Massey University, Albany, Aotearoa, New Zealand

Darrin Hodgetts

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar


All authors researched and drafted material for the article. All authors contributed substantially to discussion of the content. F.C. drafted the article. All authors reviewed and/or edited the manuscript before submission.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Flora Cornish .

Ethics declarations

Competing interests.

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information.

Nature Reviews Methods Primers thanks Jesica Fernández, Sonja Marzi, Jill Clark and Alice McIntyre for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Related links

Better Evaluation:

Juba Wajiin: resistencia en la montaña:

La Sandia Digital:

Morris Justice project:

Supplementary information

Supplementary information.

Involving multiple team members in the analysis and interpretation of materials generated, typically in iterative cycles of individual or pair work and group discussion.

Both a structure and a process, community refers to a network of often diverse and unequal persons engaged in common tasks or actions, stakes or interests that lead them to form social ties or commune with one another.

A process through which a person or group’s activities are altered or appropriated to serve another group’s interests.

A term typically used in service provision to describe partnership working between service providers and service users, to jointly produce decisions or designs.

A call to recognize and dismantle the destructive legacies of colonialism in societal institutions, to re-power indigenous groups and to construct alternative relationships between peoples and knowledges that liberate knowers and doers from colonial extraction and centralization of power.

Scholarship that creates knowledge of the conditions that limit or oppress us to liberate ourselves from those conditions and to support others in their own transformations.

Injustices in relation to knowledge, including whose knowledge counts and which knowledge is deemed valid or not.

Research that extracts information and exploits relationships, places and peoples, producing benefit for scholars or institutions elsewhere, and depleting resources at the sites of the research.

Knowledge that is rooted in experience in a particular social context, often devalued by social science perspectives that make claims to generalizability or universality.

The relationships of domination, subordination and resistance between individuals or social groups, allowing some to advance their perspectives and interests more than others.

A methodological practice through which scholars critically reflect on their own positionality and how it impacts on participants and co-researchers, understanding of the topic and the knowledge produced.

An approach to ethical conduct that situates ethics as ongoingly negotiated within the context of respectful relationships, beyond following the procedural rules often set out by ethics committees.

A dual role in which scholars use their knowledge (scholarship) to tackle injustices and instigate changes (activism) in collaboration with marginalized communities and/or organizations.

Doing something or appointing a person for reasons other than in the interest of enabling meaningful change.

A systemic change in which relationships and structures are fundamentally altered, often contrasted with smaller-scale changes such as varying or refining existing relations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article.

Cornish, F., Breton, N., Moreno-Tabarez, U. et al. Participatory action research. Nat Rev Methods Primers 3 , 34 (2023).

Download citation

Accepted : 27 February 2023

Published : 27 April 2023


Share this article

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

Quick links

  • Explore articles by subject
  • Guide to authors
  • Editorial policies

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

participatory action research

Participatory Action Research at MIT

What is par, participatory action research (par).

By Lawrence Susskind*

participatory action research

This is not to say that applied social science research isn't important. On the contrary, the most serious problems we face today are social and political, not physical. We need to make sure that social science is used to produce prescriptive insights and advice for those trying to promote social change.

Where have social scientists gone wrong?

participatory action research

  • First, you have to believe that the two halves of the community are initially the same (and stay the same) during the course of the experiment.
  • Second, you must believe that everything else remains constant during the course of the experiment.
  • Third, you have to believe that the experimental effort and not something else caused whatever statistically results emerged..

Putting aside ethical and moral concerns about withholding a benefit or imposing something bad on half a community so that someone’s theories can be tested, serious methodological problems remain. Mere correlation isn't a sufficient basis for reshaping public policy or interfering in people's lives. Even more important is the fact that statistical relevance doesn't explain why good or bad things happen. Social scientists should stop pretending that correlation equals causation. They should admit that the complexity and uncertainty involved in the social systems in which we live and work make science-like generalizations about people, communities and institutions extremely unreliable.

Getting social science back on track

participatory action research

PAR produces “actionable” knowledge by focusing on individual situations rather than on statistical analysis of large samples or controlled experiments. All PAR knowledge is "situated."  That means it is place- or case-specific. PAR puts a premium on local knowledge (what people in real situation know from their first-hand experience), rather than what experts think. And, PAR measures the success of applied social research in terms of the what client-communities understand , rather than what peer-reviewers think or the replicability of  findings. The goal of PAR-like applied social research isn't to generate proof.. On the contrary, the objective of PAR is to generate what Aristotle would have called "practical wisdom" or useable knowledge, believable to those who have to take action if social change is going to occur. Davydd Greenwood and Morten Levin, in  Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change (2006), do a nice job of summarizing the development and current state of PAR.

Many dilemmas still surround participatory action research. These are the focus of ongoing debate among a growing community of PAR scholars and practitioners. Who represents a community, an agency or a client? How should power imbalances in a client-community be handled? How can a "friendly outsider" (i.e. a PAR researcher) convince a client-community that he or she should be trusted? Who should make the final decision about which data ought to be gathered and how findings should be interpreted? How should case specific findings be integrated with what has been learned from other cases or from insights generated by traditional applied social scientists? What role should PAR researchers play in formulating prescriptions for action? Can and should the PAR researcher stay involved with a client-community as its seeks to monitor results and make ongoing adjustments?

Building a community of PAR scholars

participatory action research

The resistance to PAR is strongest among social scientists who yearn to be part of the natural science fraternity, and who are more concerned about being respected by other academics than they are about building the capacity of client-communities to solve the problems they face. In their view, PAR advocates feed right into the hands of natural science skeptics who think putting "social" in front of scientist is equivalent to putting "witch" in front of "doctor." PAR practitioners, for their part, are worried that traditional social scientists are oblivious to the harm they do when they generalize about social and political phenomenon and fail to appreciate the case specific implications of their findings.

We want to initiate a different conversation. PAR teachers and practitioners should focus on explaining to their potential client-communities what they do, and why they do it (and why it would be best to work with PAR researchers rather than traditional social scientists). They should do more to codify the ethical norms that guide PAR in practice so they can be held accountable. And, they should think hard about the best ways of integrating what PAR teaches about case specific situations with the kinds of generalizations that traditional social scientists produce. Finally, we believe that graduate students interested in PAR should also seek to master a range of traditional science research methods. Mixed methods can yield valuable insights.

*Lawrence Susskind is Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT.  He has been a member of the MIT faculty for more than 40 years. He is also Vice-Chair of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School and Founder/Chief Knowledge Officer of the Consensus Building Institute.

[1] A number of authors have done a masterful job spelling out all the reasons why social scientists should stop aspiring to be natural scientists. See Bent Flyvbjerg’s books  Real Social Science  (2012) and  Making Social Science Matter  (2001) for a full explanation. 

participatory action research

  • Plan, Monitor and Evaluate
  • Learn and Empower
  • Research and Analyse
  • Communicate
  • Methods & Ideas

You are here

Participatory action research.

Participatory Action Research (PAR) is an approach to enquiry which has been used since the 1940s. It involves researchers and participants working together to understand a problematic situation and change it for the better. There are many definitions of the approach, which share some common elements. PAR focuses on social change that promotes democracy and challenges inequality; is context-specific , often targeted on the needs of a particular group; is an iterative cycle of research, action and reflection; and often seeks to ‘liberate’ participants to have a greater awareness of their situation in order to take action. PAR uses a range of different methods, both qualitative and quantitative.

  • Search Menu

Sign in through your institution

  • Browse content in Arts and Humanities
  • Browse content in Archaeology
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology
  • Archaeological Methodology and Techniques
  • Archaeology by Region
  • Archaeology of Religion
  • Archaeology of Trade and Exchange
  • Biblical Archaeology
  • Contemporary and Public Archaeology
  • Environmental Archaeology
  • Historical Archaeology
  • History and Theory of Archaeology
  • Industrial Archaeology
  • Landscape Archaeology
  • Mortuary Archaeology
  • Prehistoric Archaeology
  • Underwater Archaeology
  • Urban Archaeology
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Browse content in Architecture
  • Architectural Structure and Design
  • History of Architecture
  • Residential and Domestic Buildings
  • Theory of Architecture
  • Browse content in Art
  • Art Subjects and Themes
  • History of Art
  • Industrial and Commercial Art
  • Theory of Art
  • Biographical Studies
  • Byzantine Studies
  • Browse content in Classical Studies
  • Classical History
  • Classical Philosophy
  • Classical Mythology
  • Classical Literature
  • Classical Reception
  • Classical Art and Architecture
  • Classical Oratory and Rhetoric
  • Greek and Roman Epigraphy
  • Greek and Roman Law
  • Greek and Roman Papyrology
  • Greek and Roman Archaeology
  • Late Antiquity
  • Religion in the Ancient World
  • Social History
  • Digital Humanities
  • Browse content in History
  • Colonialism and Imperialism
  • Diplomatic History
  • Environmental History
  • Genealogy, Heraldry, Names, and Honours
  • Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing
  • Historical Geography
  • History by Period
  • History of Emotions
  • History of Agriculture
  • History of Education
  • History of Gender and Sexuality
  • Industrial History
  • Intellectual History
  • International History
  • Labour History
  • Legal and Constitutional History
  • Local and Family History
  • Maritime History
  • Military History
  • National Liberation and Post-Colonialism
  • Oral History
  • Political History
  • Public History
  • Regional and National History
  • Revolutions and Rebellions
  • Slavery and Abolition of Slavery
  • Social and Cultural History
  • Theory, Methods, and Historiography
  • Urban History
  • World History
  • Browse content in Language Teaching and Learning
  • Language Learning (Specific Skills)
  • Language Teaching Theory and Methods
  • Browse content in Linguistics
  • Applied Linguistics
  • Cognitive Linguistics
  • Computational Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Historical and Diachronic Linguistics
  • History of English
  • Language Acquisition
  • Language Evolution
  • Language Reference
  • Language Variation
  • Language Families
  • Lexicography
  • Linguistic Anthropology
  • Linguistic Theories
  • Linguistic Typology
  • Phonetics and Phonology
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Translation and Interpretation
  • Writing Systems
  • Browse content in Literature
  • Bibliography
  • Children's Literature Studies
  • Literary Studies (Asian)
  • Literary Studies (European)
  • Literary Studies (Eco-criticism)
  • Literary Studies (Romanticism)
  • Literary Studies (American)
  • Literary Studies (Modernism)
  • Literary Studies - World
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (19th Century)
  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)
  • Literary Studies (African American Literature)
  • Literary Studies (British and Irish)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
  • Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)
  • Literary Studies (Gender Studies)
  • Literary Studies (Graphic Novels)
  • Literary Studies (History of the Book)
  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)
  • Literary Studies (Postcolonial Literature)
  • Literary Studies (Queer Studies)
  • Literary Studies (Science Fiction)
  • Literary Studies (Travel Literature)
  • Literary Studies (War Literature)
  • Literary Studies (Women's Writing)
  • Literary Theory and Cultural Studies
  • Mythology and Folklore
  • Shakespeare Studies and Criticism
  • Browse content in Media Studies
  • Browse content in Music
  • Applied Music
  • Dance and Music
  • Ethics in Music
  • Ethnomusicology
  • Gender and Sexuality in Music
  • Medicine and Music
  • Music Cultures
  • Music and Religion
  • Music and Media
  • Music and Culture
  • Music Education and Pedagogy
  • Music Theory and Analysis
  • Musical Scores, Lyrics, and Libretti
  • Musical Structures, Styles, and Techniques
  • Musicology and Music History
  • Performance Practice and Studies
  • Race and Ethnicity in Music
  • Sound Studies
  • Browse content in Performing Arts
  • Browse content in Philosophy
  • Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art
  • Epistemology
  • Feminist Philosophy
  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Metaphysics
  • Moral Philosophy
  • Non-Western Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Philosophy of Perception
  • Philosophy of Action
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic
  • Practical Ethics
  • Social and Political Philosophy
  • Browse content in Religion
  • Biblical Studies
  • Christianity
  • East Asian Religions
  • History of Religion
  • Judaism and Jewish Studies
  • Qumran Studies
  • Religion and Education
  • Religion and Health
  • Religion and Politics
  • Religion and Science
  • Religion and Law
  • Religion and Art, Literature, and Music
  • Religious Studies
  • Browse content in Society and Culture
  • Cookery, Food, and Drink
  • Cultural Studies
  • Customs and Traditions
  • Ethical Issues and Debates
  • Hobbies, Games, Arts and Crafts
  • Natural world, Country Life, and Pets
  • Popular Beliefs and Controversial Knowledge
  • Sports and Outdoor Recreation
  • Technology and Society
  • Travel and Holiday
  • Visual Culture
  • Browse content in Law
  • Arbitration
  • Browse content in Company and Commercial Law
  • Commercial Law
  • Company Law
  • Browse content in Comparative Law
  • Systems of Law
  • Competition Law
  • Browse content in Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Government Powers
  • Judicial Review
  • Local Government Law
  • Military and Defence Law
  • Parliamentary and Legislative Practice
  • Construction Law
  • Contract Law
  • Browse content in Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Criminal Evidence Law
  • Sentencing and Punishment
  • Employment and Labour Law
  • Environment and Energy Law
  • Browse content in Financial Law
  • Banking Law
  • Insolvency Law
  • History of Law
  • Human Rights and Immigration
  • Intellectual Property Law
  • Browse content in International Law
  • Private International Law and Conflict of Laws
  • Public International Law
  • IT and Communications Law
  • Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law
  • Law and Politics
  • Law and Society
  • Browse content in Legal System and Practice
  • Courts and Procedure
  • Legal Skills and Practice
  • Primary Sources of Law
  • Regulation of Legal Profession
  • Medical and Healthcare Law
  • Browse content in Policing
  • Criminal Investigation and Detection
  • Police and Security Services
  • Police Procedure and Law
  • Police Regional Planning
  • Browse content in Property Law
  • Personal Property Law
  • Study and Revision
  • Terrorism and National Security Law
  • Browse content in Trusts Law
  • Wills and Probate or Succession
  • Browse content in Medicine and Health
  • Browse content in Allied Health Professions
  • Arts Therapies
  • Clinical Science
  • Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Operating Department Practice
  • Physiotherapy
  • Radiography
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Browse content in Anaesthetics
  • General Anaesthesia
  • Neuroanaesthesia
  • Browse content in Clinical Medicine
  • Acute Medicine
  • Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Clinical Genetics
  • Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics
  • Dermatology
  • Endocrinology and Diabetes
  • Gastroenterology
  • Genito-urinary Medicine
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Medical Toxicology
  • Medical Oncology
  • Pain Medicine
  • Palliative Medicine
  • Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Respiratory Medicine and Pulmonology
  • Rheumatology
  • Sleep Medicine
  • Sports and Exercise Medicine
  • Clinical Neuroscience
  • Community Medical Services
  • Critical Care
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Haematology
  • History of Medicine
  • Browse content in Medical Dentistry
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Paediatric Dentistry
  • Restorative Dentistry and Orthodontics
  • Surgical Dentistry
  • Browse content in Medical Skills
  • Clinical Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Nursing Skills
  • Surgical Skills
  • Medical Ethics
  • Medical Statistics and Methodology
  • Browse content in Neurology
  • Clinical Neurophysiology
  • Neuropathology
  • Nursing Studies
  • Browse content in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Gynaecology
  • Occupational Medicine
  • Ophthalmology
  • Otolaryngology (ENT)
  • Browse content in Paediatrics
  • Neonatology
  • Browse content in Pathology
  • Chemical Pathology
  • Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics
  • Histopathology
  • Medical Microbiology and Virology
  • Patient Education and Information
  • Browse content in Pharmacology
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Browse content in Popular Health
  • Caring for Others
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • Self-help and Personal Development
  • Browse content in Preclinical Medicine
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology and Genetics
  • Reproduction, Growth and Development
  • Primary Care
  • Professional Development in Medicine
  • Browse content in Psychiatry
  • Addiction Medicine
  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Old Age Psychiatry
  • Psychotherapy
  • Browse content in Public Health and Epidemiology
  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health
  • Browse content in Radiology
  • Clinical Radiology
  • Interventional Radiology
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Browse content in Surgery
  • Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Gastro-intestinal and Colorectal Surgery
  • General Surgery
  • Neurosurgery
  • Paediatric Surgery
  • Peri-operative Care
  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Surgical Oncology
  • Transplant Surgery
  • Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Vascular Surgery
  • Browse content in Science and Mathematics
  • Browse content in Biological Sciences
  • Aquatic Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Bioinformatics and Computational Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Genetics and Genomics
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular and Cell Biology
  • Natural History
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry
  • Research Methods in Life Sciences
  • Structural Biology
  • Systems Biology
  • Zoology and Animal Sciences
  • Browse content in Chemistry
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Computational Chemistry
  • Crystallography
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Industrial Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Medicinal Chemistry
  • Mineralogy and Gems
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Polymer Chemistry
  • Study and Communication Skills in Chemistry
  • Theoretical Chemistry
  • Browse content in Computer Science
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Architecture and Logic Design
  • Game Studies
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Mathematical Theory of Computation
  • Programming Languages
  • Software Engineering
  • Systems Analysis and Design
  • Virtual Reality
  • Browse content in Computing
  • Business Applications
  • Computer Security
  • Computer Games
  • Computer Networking and Communications
  • Digital Lifestyle
  • Graphical and Digital Media Applications
  • Operating Systems
  • Browse content in Earth Sciences and Geography
  • Atmospheric Sciences
  • Environmental Geography
  • Geology and the Lithosphere
  • Maps and Map-making
  • Meteorology and Climatology
  • Oceanography and Hydrology
  • Palaeontology
  • Physical Geography and Topography
  • Regional Geography
  • Soil Science
  • Urban Geography
  • Browse content in Engineering and Technology
  • Agriculture and Farming
  • Biological Engineering
  • Civil Engineering, Surveying, and Building
  • Electronics and Communications Engineering
  • Energy Technology
  • Engineering (General)
  • Environmental Science, Engineering, and Technology
  • History of Engineering and Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering and Materials
  • Technology of Industrial Chemistry
  • Transport Technology and Trades
  • Browse content in Environmental Science
  • Applied Ecology (Environmental Science)
  • Conservation of the Environment (Environmental Science)
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Environmentalist Thought and Ideology (Environmental Science)
  • Management of Land and Natural Resources (Environmental Science)
  • Natural Disasters (Environmental Science)
  • Nuclear Issues (Environmental Science)
  • Pollution and Threats to the Environment (Environmental Science)
  • Social Impact of Environmental Issues (Environmental Science)
  • History of Science and Technology
  • Browse content in Materials Science
  • Ceramics and Glasses
  • Composite Materials
  • Metals, Alloying, and Corrosion
  • Nanotechnology
  • Browse content in Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Biomathematics and Statistics
  • History of Mathematics
  • Mathematical Education
  • Mathematical Finance
  • Mathematical Analysis
  • Numerical and Computational Mathematics
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Pure Mathematics
  • Browse content in Neuroscience
  • Cognition and Behavioural Neuroscience
  • Development of the Nervous System
  • Disorders of the Nervous System
  • History of Neuroscience
  • Invertebrate Neurobiology
  • Molecular and Cellular Systems
  • Neuroendocrinology and Autonomic Nervous System
  • Neuroscientific Techniques
  • Sensory and Motor Systems
  • Browse content in Physics
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics
  • Biological and Medical Physics
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Computational Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Electromagnetism, Optics, and Acoustics
  • History of Physics
  • Mathematical and Statistical Physics
  • Measurement Science
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Particles and Fields
  • Plasma Physics
  • Quantum Physics
  • Relativity and Gravitation
  • Semiconductor and Mesoscopic Physics
  • Browse content in Psychology
  • Affective Sciences
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Criminal and Forensic Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Evolutionary Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • History and Systems in Psychology
  • Music Psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Psychological Assessment and Testing
  • Psychology of Human-Technology Interaction
  • Psychology Professional Development and Training
  • Research Methods in Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Browse content in Social Sciences
  • Browse content in Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Religion
  • Human Evolution
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Physical Anthropology
  • Regional Anthropology
  • Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Theory and Practice of Anthropology
  • Browse content in Business and Management
  • Business Strategy
  • Business Ethics
  • Business History
  • Business and Government
  • Business and Technology
  • Business and the Environment
  • Comparative Management
  • Corporate Governance
  • Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Health Management
  • Human Resource Management
  • Industrial and Employment Relations
  • Industry Studies
  • Information and Communication Technologies
  • International Business
  • Knowledge Management
  • Management and Management Techniques
  • Operations Management
  • Organizational Theory and Behaviour
  • Pensions and Pension Management
  • Public and Nonprofit Management
  • Strategic Management
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Browse content in Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Justice
  • Criminology
  • Forms of Crime
  • International and Comparative Criminology
  • Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice
  • Development Studies
  • Browse content in Economics
  • Agricultural, Environmental, and Natural Resource Economics
  • Asian Economics
  • Behavioural Finance
  • Behavioural Economics and Neuroeconomics
  • Econometrics and Mathematical Economics
  • Economic Systems
  • Economic History
  • Economic Methodology
  • Economic Development and Growth
  • Financial Markets
  • Financial Institutions and Services
  • General Economics and Teaching
  • Health, Education, and Welfare
  • History of Economic Thought
  • International Economics
  • Labour and Demographic Economics
  • Law and Economics
  • Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics
  • Microeconomics
  • Public Economics
  • Urban, Rural, and Regional Economics
  • Welfare Economics
  • Browse content in Education
  • Adult Education and Continuous Learning
  • Care and Counselling of Students
  • Early Childhood and Elementary Education
  • Educational Equipment and Technology
  • Educational Strategies and Policy
  • Higher and Further Education
  • Organization and Management of Education
  • Philosophy and Theory of Education
  • Schools Studies
  • Secondary Education
  • Teaching of a Specific Subject
  • Teaching of Specific Groups and Special Educational Needs
  • Teaching Skills and Techniques
  • Browse content in Environment
  • Applied Ecology (Social Science)
  • Climate Change
  • Conservation of the Environment (Social Science)
  • Environmentalist Thought and Ideology (Social Science)
  • Management of Land and Natural Resources (Social Science)
  • Natural Disasters (Environment)
  • Social Impact of Environmental Issues (Social Science)
  • Sustainability
  • Browse content in Human Geography
  • Cultural Geography
  • Economic Geography
  • Political Geography
  • Browse content in Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Communication Studies
  • Museums, Libraries, and Information Sciences
  • Browse content in Politics
  • African Politics
  • Asian Politics
  • Chinese Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • Conflict Politics
  • Elections and Electoral Studies
  • Environmental Politics
  • Ethnic Politics
  • European Union
  • Foreign Policy
  • Gender and Politics
  • Human Rights and Politics
  • Indian Politics
  • International Relations
  • International Organization (Politics)
  • International Political Economy
  • Irish Politics
  • Latin American Politics
  • Middle Eastern Politics
  • Political Methodology
  • Political Communication
  • Political Philosophy
  • Political Sociology
  • Political Behaviour
  • Political Economy
  • Political Institutions
  • Political Theory
  • Politics and Law
  • Politics of Development
  • Public Administration
  • Public Policy
  • Qualitative Political Methodology
  • Quantitative Political Methodology
  • Regional Political Studies
  • Russian Politics
  • Security Studies
  • State and Local Government
  • UK Politics
  • US Politics
  • Browse content in Regional and Area Studies
  • African Studies
  • Asian Studies
  • East Asian Studies
  • Japanese Studies
  • Latin American Studies
  • Middle Eastern Studies
  • Native American Studies
  • Scottish Studies
  • Browse content in Research and Information
  • Research Methods
  • Browse content in Social Work
  • Addictions and Substance Misuse
  • Adoption and Fostering
  • Care of the Elderly
  • Child and Adolescent Social Work
  • Couple and Family Social Work
  • Direct Practice and Clinical Social Work
  • Emergency Services
  • Human Behaviour and the Social Environment
  • International and Global Issues in Social Work
  • Mental and Behavioural Health
  • Social Justice and Human Rights
  • Social Policy and Advocacy
  • Social Work and Crime and Justice
  • Social Work Macro Practice
  • Social Work Practice Settings
  • Social Work Research and Evidence-based Practice
  • Welfare and Benefit Systems
  • Browse content in Sociology
  • Childhood Studies
  • Community Development
  • Comparative and Historical Sociology
  • Economic Sociology
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Gerontology and Ageing
  • Health, Illness, and Medicine
  • Marriage and the Family
  • Migration Studies
  • Occupations, Professions, and Work
  • Organizations
  • Population and Demography
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Social Theory
  • Social Movements and Social Change
  • Social Research and Statistics
  • Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility
  • Sociology of Religion
  • Sociology of Education
  • Sport and Leisure
  • Urban and Rural Studies
  • Browse content in Warfare and Defence
  • Defence Strategy, Planning, and Research
  • Land Forces and Warfare
  • Military Administration
  • Military Life and Institutions
  • Naval Forces and Warfare
  • Other Warfare and Defence Issues
  • Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution
  • Weapons and Equipment

Participatory Action Research: Ethics and Decolonization

  • < Previous
  • Next chapter >

1 What Is Participatory Action Research? Contemporary Methodological Considerations

  • Published: May 2022
  • Cite Icon Cite
  • Permissions Icon Permissions

Chapter 1 outlines the key characteristics of Participatory Action Research (PAR), a methodology or approach that privileges active involvement of people with lived experiences, or co-researchers, to generate findings and strategies to effect change. The author explains how participatory research models can lead to social justice outcomes and the significance of co-research and co-production of new knowledge. The chapter focuses on eight underpinning principles of PAR: It involves disruption of traditional research approaches; reciprocal benefits; trust; deep engagement; social change; intersectionality; co-researchers’ agendas; and a challenge to power differentials. The author outlines how academic researchers’ commitment to reciprocity, or shared understanding of mutually beneficial outcomes, is at the core of PAR. She explains the concept of vulnerability as an ethical research practice, where academic researchers are open to the impact others have on their sense of self. The final part of the chapter outlines the book structure and provides background information on the five vignette contributors.

Personal account

  • Sign in with email/username & password
  • Get email alerts
  • Save searches
  • Purchase content
  • Activate your purchase/trial code
  • Add your ORCID iD

Institutional access

Sign in with a library card.

  • Sign in with username/password
  • Recommend to your librarian
  • Institutional account management
  • Get help with access

Access to content on Oxford Academic is often provided through institutional subscriptions and purchases. If you are a member of an institution with an active account, you may be able to access content in one of the following ways:

IP based access

Typically, access is provided across an institutional network to a range of IP addresses. This authentication occurs automatically, and it is not possible to sign out of an IP authenticated account.

Choose this option to get remote access when outside your institution. Shibboleth/Open Athens technology is used to provide single sign-on between your institution’s website and Oxford Academic.

  • Click Sign in through your institution.
  • Select your institution from the list provided, which will take you to your institution's website to sign in.
  • When on the institution site, please use the credentials provided by your institution. Do not use an Oxford Academic personal account.
  • Following successful sign in, you will be returned to Oxford Academic.

If your institution is not listed or you cannot sign in to your institution’s website, please contact your librarian or administrator.

Enter your library card number to sign in. If you cannot sign in, please contact your librarian.

Society Members

Society member access to a journal is achieved in one of the following ways:

Sign in through society site

Many societies offer single sign-on between the society website and Oxford Academic. If you see ‘Sign in through society site’ in the sign in pane within a journal:

  • Click Sign in through society site.
  • When on the society site, please use the credentials provided by that society. Do not use an Oxford Academic personal account.

If you do not have a society account or have forgotten your username or password, please contact your society.

Sign in using a personal account

Some societies use Oxford Academic personal accounts to provide access to their members. See below.

A personal account can be used to get email alerts, save searches, purchase content, and activate subscriptions.

Some societies use Oxford Academic personal accounts to provide access to their members.

Viewing your signed in accounts

Click the account icon in the top right to:

  • View your signed in personal account and access account management features.
  • View the institutional accounts that are providing access.

Signed in but can't access content

Oxford Academic is home to a wide variety of products. The institutional subscription may not cover the content that you are trying to access. If you believe you should have access to that content, please contact your librarian.

For librarians and administrators, your personal account also provides access to institutional account management. Here you will find options to view and activate subscriptions, manage institutional settings and access options, access usage statistics, and more.

Our books are available by subscription or purchase to libraries and institutions.

Month: Total Views:
October 2022 114
November 2022 83
December 2022 97
January 2023 115
February 2023 72
March 2023 132
April 2023 95
May 2023 99
June 2023 75
July 2023 60
August 2023 103
September 2023 106
October 2023 168
November 2023 155
December 2023 207
January 2024 127
February 2024 90
March 2024 126
April 2024 123
May 2024 71
June 2024 23
July 2024 12
  • About Oxford Academic
  • Publish journals with us
  • University press partners
  • What we publish
  • New features  
  • Open access
  • Rights and permissions
  • Accessibility
  • Advertising
  • Media enquiries
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Languages
  • University of Oxford

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide

  • Copyright © 2024 Oxford University Press
  • Cookie settings
  • Cookie policy
  • Privacy policy
  • Legal notice

This Feature Is Available To Subscribers Only

Sign In or Create an Account

This PDF is available to Subscribers Only

For full access to this pdf, sign in to an existing account, or purchase an annual subscription.

  • Tools and Resources
  • Customer Services
  • Original Language Spotlight
  • Alternative and Non-formal Education 
  • Cognition, Emotion, and Learning
  • Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • Education and Society
  • Education, Change, and Development
  • Education, Cultures, and Ethnicities
  • Education, Gender, and Sexualities
  • Education, Health, and Social Services
  • Educational Administration and Leadership
  • Educational History
  • Educational Politics and Policy
  • Educational Purposes and Ideals
  • Educational Systems
  • Educational Theories and Philosophies
  • Globalization, Economics, and Education
  • Languages and Literacies
  • Professional Learning and Development
  • Research and Assessment Methods
  • Technology and Education
  • Share This Facebook LinkedIn Twitter

Article contents

Participatory action research in education.

  • Anne Galletta Anne Galletta Cleveland State University
  •  and  María Elena Torre María Elena Torre Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Published online: 28 August 2019

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.

  • participatory action research
  • education reform
  • participatory contact zones
  • generative dissonance


Participatory action research (PAR) is an epistemological framework that reconfigures ways of knowing and being in relation—it marks an ontological shift from conventional research practices within the academy. Rooted in critiques of knowledge production made by feminist and critical race theory, PAR challenges exclusive academic notions of expertise, legitimizing, and prioritizing the expertise and perspectives that come from lived experience and situated knowledge, particularly those that have been historically marginalized (Collins, 1998 ; Harding, 1991 ). 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 (Torre & Fine, 2006 ). Youth and educators are invited as colleagues to design research programs, determine research questions, gather and make sense of relevant literatures/existing knowledge, decide useful methods, collect and analyze data, and create meaningful research products. PAR may draw from a qualitative research approach or it may include quantitative research within a mixed methods approach.

While PAR does not need the participation of the academy, it is often constructed as a collaboration between university-based researchers and youth and sometimes adults outside of the university who are concerned about injustice in a number of public spheres. Together, these research collectives of differently positioned members across institutional and social hierarchies of power—of youth, academics, and, sometimes, elders, educators, artists, lawyers, and policymakers, for example—create what María (Torre, 2009 ) has called “participatory contact zones.” Each member/co-researcher brings her/his/their own reservoir of experiential knowledge and differing angles of vision to the table, into a participatory inquiry space committed to using and infusing these differences throughout the research process. A deeply relational praxis, PAR understands the diverse range of standpoints, and the potential dissonance and/or clashes that come with them, as an important and generative contribution to the research. 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. For these reasons, PAR engages power and difference as part of an ethical and methodological stance within research. 1

To lay the groundwork for a discussion of the complexities of carrying out PAR projects in and around educational spaces, we begin by establishing some of the contemporary tensions within public education. We then introduce a project with the hope of illustrating some core theoretical, methodological, and ethical commitments of a critical PAR praxis, paying particular attention to the relational and structural dimensions of PAR as well as generative possibilities opened by PAR’s embrace of discontinuities and dissonance. At the heart of what we hope readers will take away from this article is an understanding of participation in PAR as an inherently ethical commitment to redistribute power and legitimacy. This commitment is complexly woven throughout all steps of the research process. In education, like many institutions, decentering privilege and questioning power threatens existing structural arrangements and is often met with hostility by those historically in control. While these challenges tear at the institutional fabric of what has been , the conflicts generated by participation have the potential to create openings and “break with what is supposedly fixed and finished, objectively and independently real” (Greene, 1995 , p. 19) and thus reframe research questions, introduce alternative interpretations, and reposition relations of power toward what could be .

In the next section, we outline the theoretical genealogy of PAR and consider philosophical underpinnings of critical participatory methodologies.

Theoretical Genealogy of PAR

The origins of critical PAR developed in the disciplinary margins of social psychology, education, and sociology. Many of its roots can be traced to community settings and contexts where academics, organizers, and residents gathered to address community problems and political oppression (Fals-Borda, 1977 ; Lewin, 1948 ; Rahman, 1985 ; Wormser & Selltiz, 1951 ). Social psychologist Kurt Lewin, Claire Selltiz, and Margot Wormser stretched the methodologies of their discipline in the 1940s and early 1950s, adapting and developing a practice of action research for problem-solving on issues of racial and ethnic discrimination in the aftermath of World War II (Cherry & Borshuk, 1998 ; Torre & Fine, 2011 ). Lewin ( 1948 ) argued for an action research methodology maintaining a “constant intense tension,” where one “keep[s] both theory and reality fully within his field of vision” (p. 10). Fals-Borda and Rhaman ( 1991 ) describe the use of PAR in Bangladesh, Columbia, India, Nicaragua, Peru, Sri Lanka, the United States, and Zimbabwe where a number of academics in the late 1970s and early 1980s left positions within the university to engage in participatory community research. Some later returned to the academy, committed to the bumpy task of inserting PAR methodologies within rigid disciplinary views of science. This involved altering conventional conceptions of science, challenging the academy’s exclusive hold on “expertise,” and expanding notions of who can legitimately produce knowledge to those outside universities. This shift in power toward collective community efforts investigating human problems signified a recognition of the deep reservoirs of cultural knowledge and local expertise within communities confronting these problems. Further, the emphasis on the urgency of community inquiry in turn deemed action to be an integral part of knowledge production. The commitment to action insisted on a praxis research aimed at disrupting relations of oppression. Embracing Marx’s call to move from interpretation to transformation (Engels, 1886/1946 ), an epistemology emerged around the globe that braided knowledge production, struggles for justice, and participation of the people.

More Than a “Method”

Central to a critical praxis of PAR is a framework that reconfigures relational, structural, and cultural arrangements of power in order to collectively alter ways of thinking about conditions of lived experience. Embodying the spirit of Gramsci (Hoare & Smith, 1971/2000 ), it involves a research process in which social givens are upended, “common sense” is critiqued (p. 637), and the “spontaneous’ consent” by which we participate in everyday structures of oppression is surfaced and troubled (p. 145). 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. Projects privilege standpoints that have been traditionally excluded and excavates operations of power within the research in order to inform analytical lenses necessary to understanding dynamics within the issues and experiences being studied. As Morrow and Torres ( 1995 ) note, the experience of privilege and exclusion, sometimes veiled, “is never fully secured, remains precarious, and must be continually negotiated” (p. 278), providing potential for counterhegemony and resistance. In this sense, a PAR approach is both a “rigorous search for knowledge” and what Fals-Borda called a “ vivencia ,” a “progressive evolution toward an overall, structural transformation of society and culture, a process that requires ever renewed commitment, an ethical stand, self-critique and persistence at all levels” (Rahman & Fals-Borda, 1991 , p. 29).

Critical collective participatory methodologies create ways to explore inconsistencies between the external reality of those marginalized by poverty and the consciousness through which the reality is understood. Paulo Freire’s work in Brazil in the 1950s before his incarceration powerfully illustrates the link between the struggle for emancipatory knowledge and the constraints of social reproductive forces in education. He argued for a pedagogical praxis that was “forged with , not for , the oppressed (whether individuals or peoples) in the incessant struggle to regain their humanity” (Freire, 1970/2016 , p. 48). For Freire, key to the struggle for liberation was a movement toward awareness. Within PAR, researchers committed to justice “must perceive the reality of oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting situation which they can transform” (p. 49). Freire critiqued education as typically reliant on cultural transmission of knowledge that is widely privileged and credentialized, which he referred to as the “banking theory and practice” which “fail[s] to acknowledge men and women as historical beings” (p. 84).

The work of Lewin, Wormser and Selltiz, Fals-Borda, Rahman, Freire, and others around the globe has continued to inform generations of PAR driven by emancipatory struggle (Zeller-Berkman, 2014 ). Challenging the idea that expertise exists solely within the academy or professions, community leaders of color in the urban United States, alongside interracial solidarity collectives and indigenous peoples from rural and urban communities, have brought their local knowledge and practices to the research table, along with a multiplicity of skills and understandings to new knowledge and alternatives to oppressive structural arrangements (Ayala et al., 2018 ; Cahill et al., 2017 ; Galletta, 2019 ; Smith, 2012 ; Torre et al., 2017 ).

We turn now to a discussion of PAR specifically within the realm of education with the hope of marking important ideas, tensions, and ethical considerations. Our discussion should not be understood as exhaustive since the body of participatory research in education is rich with variation. We should note that the context from which we write is primarily, though not exclusively, within the United States.

Historicizing the Context of Education

It feels impossible to begin a discussion of PAR in education without reflecting first on the ideological, epistemological, geopolitical, and racialized geographies within contemporary philosophical and political trends in PK–12 public education. What does it mean to engage students, teachers, and school communities in a transformative process of democratic inquiry and meaning-making when such communities have been placed in the straightjackets of high-stakes testing and neoliberal restructuring? A second important reflection must attend to the field of educational research itself and the ways the academy has historically privileged and valued particular ways of knowing over others. What then does it mean to engage in open-ended mixed method research in which untraditionally trained researchers determine questions, design methods, and analyze and interpret data? In the following section, we open each of these areas and encourage readers to think about the challenges and tensions these realities produce for a sincere engagement with PAR in education.

Philosophical and Political Trends in Public Education

Deeply constrained by the parameters of individual economic mobility and the neoliberal press for dominance within a global competitive market, the current context of education philosophically and politically is engaged in the transmission of knowledge through standardized curriculum and high-stakes testing. Furthermore, the obligation to facilitate the learning and well-being of children and youth stems from a narrow commitment to investment conditioned on the rate of return for the degree of resources invested. In the late 1980s and 1990s, as school districts were released from desegregation rulings, the move toward resegregation took hold, with increased isolation of poor and working-class students of color and immigrant students. In the mid-1990s and early 2000s, and again in 2015 , federal policy reconceptualized equity. The movement toward atomized standards and measures of achievement and quality in education through state testing, most evident in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, shifted the equation from input to output equity (Rebell & Wolff, 2008 ) absent scrutiny on gaps in opportunity, capacity, and access to resources. The current moment in education could be described as being under the tyranny of “new managerialism” characterized by a drive for “evidence-based practice” (Davies, 2003 ) with substantial imposition of philanthropic directives and business interests tied to funding (Ball & Junemann, 2012 ; Giridharadas, 2018 ).

Given these political and policy trends, the landscape of public education is saturated in a discourse and materiality reflecting an audit culture of high-stakes standardized testing (Koretz, 2017 ) and corporate education reform (Au & Ferrare, 2015 ; Fabricant & Fine, 2012 ; Lipman, 2004 ). Educational reform in the United States is argued as opportunity through race- and class-neutral individualized school choices that has as its consequence the furthering of the racialization and economic isolation of children and youth in schools “branded” by particular curriculum and outreach to families (Cucchiara, 2013 ; Kimelberg, 2014 ; Lareau, 2014 ; Pattillo, Delale-O’Connor, & Butts, 2014 ; Posey-Maddox, 2014 ). Within education and the connective tissue of the health, legal protection, and criminal justice systems, there is ongoing dispossession of public assets and the accumulation of those assets by private entities (Fine & Ruglis, 2009 ; Harvey, 2004 ; Lipman, 2016 ).

As a result, in terms of learning and development, mental health and well-being, and physical safety, schools have been and continue to be spaces of struggle and contestation for students. This has been evidenced most recently by federal policies that 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. In 2018 , the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice withdrew support for legal guidance discouraging schools from suspending and expelling students (Lhamon & Gupta, 2014 ). The Department of Justice and Department of Education also withdrew the 2016 legal guidance that schools treat students consistent with their gender identity (Lhamon & Gupta, 2016 ). And, most recently in 2018 , a White House memo expressed the intention to deny the existence of transgender people. This withdrawal of federal policy support and recognition has double impact for LGBTQ students, who report disproportionately high levels of in-school and out-of-school suspensions (Kosciw, Greytak, Zongrone, Clark, & Truong, 2017 , p. 48). Piled on to these shifts away from protecting youth in schools are the recent attacks on young people migrating to the United States and immigrant youth with long-term residency.

These daily lived conditions shape the contours within which PAR unfolds and challenges, raising critical considerations for a research praxis that ignites and supports the full participation and direction from youth who are structurally dispossessed and speaking out within spaces of intersecting lines of resistance.

Privileging What Has Historically “Counted” as Knowledge and the Policing of Such Matters

In addition to conditions on the ground inside PK–12 education, the horizon for educational research has lost considerable capacity for imagining many ways of inquiring into, interpreting, and altering the conditions of human experience in public education. As feminist and critical theorist Patti Lather ( 2004 ) observes about the role of the National Research Council and its 2002 report, Scientific Research in Education : “In spite of its oft-repeated intentions of balance across multiple methods, objectivity is enshrined and prediction, explanation, and verification override description, interpretation, and discovery” (p. 762). With the legislation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the articulation of criteria for quality research includes four tiers of research standards that define the degree to which educational research is rigorous and replicable. A Foucauldian act of surveillance and control, these tiers of research frame the standardization process, with each tier involving some form of experimental or correlational design, statistical analyses, or measures of significance. The justification for these standards is the assumption that a “high-quality research finding . . . is likely to improve student outcomes or other relevant outcomes” (Every Student Succeeds Act, 8101[21]).

Given this context, critical PAR is an inherently transgressive approach in its attention to power, its privileging of the lived experiences of the most marginalized, its use of problem posing and grounded participatory methodologies, and its commitments to produce knowledge useful for political activism and community mobilization against structures of exclusion and alienation (Cahill, Rios-Moore, & Threatts, 2008 ; Caraballo, Lozenski, Lyiscott, & Morrell, 2017 ; Drame & Irby, 2016 ; Guishard, 2009 ; jones, Stewart, Galletta, & Ayala, 2015 ; Otero & Cammerota, 2011 ; Torre et al., 2008 ; Tuck et al., 2008 ; Wright, 2015 ).

PAR in Education: Predictable Tensions

Some might argue that there is an elephant in the room when one is engaged with PAR projects that take place in schools. Not all participatory research in education is located within schools, but, when it is, predictable tensions often arise. While there are ongoing struggles to reimagine education, formal educational spaces can be alienating hierarchical places where relationships between youth and adults are rigid and not rooted in equality (Irizarry & Brown, 2014 ). Students are generally positioned as receivers of knowledge who are expected to follow directions; they are rarely included in decision-making about policies and cultural practices that shape their experiences, and they often face disciplinary outcomes if they do not do as they are told. In contrast, PAR spaces are built around methodologies that encourage open-ended inquiry, assume that knowledge is co-constructed, challenge conventional power relationships, and aim to disrupt and transform oppressive conditions.

As a result of these tensions, critical PAR projects—projects that consciously incorporate feminist, critical race, decolonial, and neo-Marxist frameworks—make strategic decisions about when and how to study issues in education from within schools and when to instead operate from outside, in community organizations, recreation centers, libraries, and the streets. However, as we discuss in more depth later, regardless of research settings issues of power exist and must be negotiated. When participatory methodologies are uncritically employed, they, like any methodology, can reproduce “the very forms of oppression that participatory approaches seek to disrupt” (Drame & Irby, 2016 , p. 3). All research is vulnerable to gendered and racialized social relations (among others) that appear so natural and inevitable that their toxicity is left undetected (Hall, 1993 ). Critical PAR addresses this by engaging in ongoing questions of privilege and vulnerability throughout the research process, reflecting the theory and history of the origins of PAR.

Participatory Methodologies in the Life of a PAR Project

We work as faculty in public universities, active in formal and informal educational settings, in both classrooms and communities, with a commitment to envisioning the academy as an inclusive public space for inquiry and social action. Anne collaborates with youth, educators, and community leaders in efforts to inquire about and take action toward more equitable relations and structural arrangements in education. María spends much of her time running the Public Science Project, which brings together intergenerational and interracial collectives of academics, organizers, advocates, artists, lawyers, and policymakers to engage participatory research in the interest of transforming unjust conditions. In the next section, we draw from moments within the life of a PAR project in Cleveland, Ohio, called Lives in Transition, to illustrate a set of theoretical, methodological, and ethical characteristics and considerations when engaging PAR in education.

Lives in Transition: Constructing Knowledge and Formulating Critique on the Meaning of School Closure

As was the case in Chicago, Denver, New York City, Philadelphia, and many other urban school districts across the United States, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) responded to federal accountability policy and state and local school reform initiatives by closing schools in some of the poorest neighborhoods on the city’s east side, where many African American families live. The consequences of these decisions impacted the lives of youth, families, and communities for whom these schools were a part. A collective of approximately 10 high school youth, several teachers, and graduate students and faculty from Cleveland State University came together to document the historical moment and understand the meaning of these school closures for youth and interrogate the discourse of “transformation” by the district. The research collective met regularly from 2010 through 2011 . The origins of this project reflect a common characteristic of PAR beginnings, as noted in our first core dimension of PAR.

Organic and Collective Beginnings

The origins of PAR projects are often organic and collective in nature, responses to realities of groups encountering unfair or unjust historical moments. In the case of the project discussed here, the announcement that the district was going to close schools that had not met state “standards of achievement,” among other measures, interrupted the life of students in Edison High School, a school where Anne and visual artist and PAR researcher vanessa jones were working on a storytelling project. 2 The focus of their project with students in the school at that time was the nature of transitions in the lives of young people. In the midst of narrating significant turning points of their lives through spoken word, art, and music, the participating students encountered a new life transition—as the closure of their high school was impossible to ignore.

Anne, vanessa, and their youth co-researchers faced a critical situation. The storytelling project had created a space where close relationships developed amid both a nurturing and hostile school climate. On the one hand, there were classrooms where teachers understood the brilliance and struggles of their students; on the other, students had to enter the school each day through “weapon detectors” and were subjected to the use of “lockdowns” to empty the hallways. Students facing the closing of their school were filled with uncertainty, anger, and apprehension—affect and reactions that felt in stark contrast to the reform narratives being used by the local district and the federal education policy to justify the closings through the argument that school closure was a “necessary intervention” to save students from “failing” schools. The sharp difference between the “reform” discourse and student experiences signaled the need for inquiry. Ethically, it pointed to a glaring absence. Where was the expertise—the voices, experiences, and ideas—of youth and teachers attending and working inside the schools targeted for closure?

In the year that followed, students displaced by school closures and those in receiving schools were forced to navigate new spaces and relationships. Anne and vanessa decided to collaborate with teachers and graduate students to offer a space for critical PAR in an after-school program in two of the high schools receiving students displaced by school closure. In keeping with the theme of transitions, the project was named Lives in Transition, or LiT.

Recognizing Expertise Beyond the Academy

PAR is guided by experiential knowledge and recognizes the legitimacy of those outside the academy to problem-pose and conduct research about issues impacting their lives. The expertise youth brought to the LiT project was essential to documenting the experience of school closure as they were living it in the present. They wrote poetry, drew maps of their neighborhoods and bus routes, and filmed the processes of the research collective’s engagement in forms of problem-posing. Anne and vanessa brought data sources providing a broader context to the meetings, such as district reports on the criteria used for closures, newspaper clippings on how the district justified its closure decisions, documents on district and state educational policies on school transportation and the use of closed school facilities, as well as historical accounts related to neighborhoods affected by the closures. They invited guests to meetings, who brought specific information needed to complete the inquiry. Critical PAR often draws on the expertise of intergenerational collectives, wherein differentially positioned members carry varied (though sometimes overlapping) funds of knowledge. The validity of the research is strengthened by this breadth of expertise—in this case, the youth knowledge about their communities and schools as well as the adult knowledge of the law, history, or data from particular fields.

In this manner, being on the “inside” of an issue or experience brings an angle of vision likely to afford understanding of the nuances and complexity of the problem being studied. Those positioned outside the community or the study focus may raise questions that reveal gaps in understanding or investment in outsider perspectives. For example, vanessa proposed involving students in the PAR project to the administration at one of the schools receiving students displaced by school closure. The school administration declined extending an invitation to their students to participate, noting that students’ participation in PAR on the experience of school closure might “bring the pain up again” (jones, Stewart, Galletta, & Ayala, 2015 ). While the production of knowledge of those closest to the problem studied offers potential for constructing new knowledge, as indicated here it also may pose a threat to maintaining ways of knowing and being in relation that support the status quo. Alternative angles of vision offered by the youth experiencing school closure may have produced knowledge potentially disruptive to the established logic of the district’s educational policies. In this example, the transgressive nature of PAR is evident, as is the centering of the experience of youth within the construction of knowledge and the repositioning of relationships.

Discontinuities as Potential Reframing Analysis and Repositioning Relationships

PAR is attentive to discontinuities in ways of seeing a problem and the power relations at work within conflicting frames for analyzing a problem. While dissonance and disagreement can be productive to research, they are not always easy. We experienced a moment of conflict for the LiT project where youth researchers were speaking about the varying identities students possessed, which differed depending on whether they were displaced by school closure and sent to a receiving school or were in the receiving school, impacted by the presence of new students transferring in from closed schools. The conversation took place at a research meeting at Granite Hill, a high school that received students from Edison High after Edison was closed. Students and teachers were each arguing from standpoints that held deep knowledge of the experience of dislocation but with different perspectives. The conflict surfaced the reality that students from closed high schools held strong ties to their old schools, and this was reflected in their reluctance to associate themselves with the new school to which they had been transferred. It also underscored for the research collective the importance of place, socially, historically, and geographically for students and school communities, as the school closings involved relocating students across geographic and community boundaries to new schools that often had long-standing rivalries and other competitive relationships with their old (now closed) schools.

Three teachers participated in the LiT PAR collective the year after a number of schools were closed. The teachers, all African American, were recognized as strong student advocates with shared cultural connections with the youth researchers. At the same time each represented different vantage points and varying degrees of structural constraints (Kohfeldt, Chhun, Grace, & Langhout, 2011 ; Ozer, Ritterman, & Wanis, 2010 ). Students knew Ms. Drew and Ms. Turney to be teachers who responded quickly to student challenges, provided rides home when bus fare was unavailable, and supported students when families encountered health crises. The third teacher, Sergeant Goodman, directed the JROTC program. Anne and vanessa had met him through two students who joined JROTC when they arrived at Granite Hill High School, after being transferred from their closed school. He asked to join the project, and though Anne and vanessa shared a broader critique of the presence of JROTC inside poor and working-class urban and rural schools but absent from wealthier suburban schools, they recognized his relationships with the students and his desire to support the project. His presence added to diverse perspectives among the adults who were insiders to the school. vanessa was also an “insider” in many ways as her son attended Cleveland schools, and she shared common experiences of attending underresourced schools serving poor and working-class communities of color. As a member of the research collective she drew organically from these experiences as a student longing for greater “communication, expression, freedom, and forming social connections” in education (jones, 2012 , p. 193). Anne’s race and social class background positioned her at times as an “outsider,” even as her regular presence in classrooms and community meeting spaces offered meaningful relationships with students and teachers and provided exposure to intimate knowledge about what was happening inside the schools.

In this participatory contact zone of sameness and difference—within the research collective—LiT members inquired and engaged multiple positionalities, sparking lenses of analysis used in meaning-making, contestation, humor, and reflection throughout the research process. A student researcher who was displaced spoke about his feelings of loss and defended those who resisted, even resented, assimilation into their receiving school, Granite Hill High. Other youth researchers saw this as deeply problematic and even used the moment to lift the benefits of being a student at Granite Hill, boasting of its athletic prowess and superiority. In what first appeared to be playfulness within the group, there was evident a rub produced by the strong shared frustration over the policy of school closure that, while impacting each of them differently, was enforced on all of them without any control or authorizing on their part.

A youth researcher who had been at Granite Hill for several years responded critically toward displaced students who stayed loyal to their closed school. Frustration hung from the words shared, particularly by one of the teachers. In a discussion punctuated with references to teachers who did and did not help students learn, and resources the school did and did not possess, the statements became personal. Ms. Drew spoke in a raised, emotional tone in her response to a youth researcher’s observation that displaced students retained their former school’s affiliation:

What he’s saying is that, most people who consider themselves from Edison High, they were invested in their school. But if you . . . went to Edison, and you walked the hall all day then, and then your school closed, you have no right to complain. You didn’t go to class and that’s why the numbers went down , because you didn’t go to your class and that’s why Edison had to close. Because if you would have been in class then they would’ve had the numbers they needed.

This biting critique by a teacher, uncharacteristic of her reputation as a student advocate, revealed the abrasive and frequent presence of high-stakes measures as a reference point in the lives of teachers and students. These measures influenced school rankings and led to school closure, dressed up as school reform. Ms. Drew called on the assumptions of a policy context where “numbers” drove decisions that were decontextualized from the lives of youth, their families, and educators. As Ms. Drew continued she revealed her biography of struggling with displacement as a teacher. She noted her affection for her former school and its students. Along with students and other teachers, Ms. Drew had been transferred from Kensington High to Granite Hill just that year. The tension created by her passionate comments forced the research collective to acknowledge that the threat of school closure bleeds into the everyday life of all schools in the district including “receiving schools.”

Ms. Drew: I came from Kensington. I love Kensington . . . I’ve seen plenty of kids . . . that graduated . . . that’s my school. vanessa: So that was a part of the story— Sergeant Goodman: Their pain could be your pain. As easy as Edison High closed, Granite Hill could be next. Ms. Drew: That’s right. Sergeant Goodman: And truth be told Granite Hill is on that list.

We see in this strained moment the created space for problem-posing, in the Freirian sense, as LiT members actively engaged in working out together and naming their “reality” as students and teachers, reflecting on differing and similar experiences of youth and of teachers. In this way, the LiT members came closer to understanding themselves to be “in a situation,” as Freire might say, coming closer to “the very condition of existence” (Freire, 1970/2016 , p. 109). The clash of ideas and interpretations created deeply pedagogic moments relationally and conceptually. Through their own enactments, the very dynamics of what they were studying surfaced. At its best, PAR produces critically pedagogical spaces where tensions and dissonance spark learning for everyone in the collective , not just the youth or the adults, and new possibilities in knowing and being in relation can be imagined.

Situating Lived Experiences of Youth Within Broader Structural Conditions

Within PAR, critical inquiry and ethical praxis situates lived experiences of youth within broader structural conditions. What happens within the PAR collective often speaks to what is happening in the broader context, influencing what students and educators are experiencing within schools. Here LiT members were also engaged in a form of what Drame and Irby ( 2016 ) refer to as interpersonal reflexivity, which interrogates positionalities and the nature of relationships within and beyond us (see also Chiu, 2006 ; Nicholls, 2009 ). Collectively there is a role for reflexivity within critical PAR where as a group we might pause and examine what is happening within the PAR collective to understand how it may be influencing the conceptualization of a project, data collection, analysis of the data, and/or reporting back results. Interpersonal reflexivity involves deliberate attention to the contextual layers of analysis and relations of power operating within the research. As Cammarota and Fine ( 2008 ) write, knowledge gained from research “should be critical in nature, meaning that findings and insights derived from analyses should point to historic and contemporary moves of power and toward progressive changes improving social conditions within the situation studied” (p. 6).

In this manner, ethical considerations impacted analytical practice and reporting back strategies. It meant attending to a broader context within which LiT youth researchers, educators, and university faculty worked together. At the state level, legislation in 2012 had altered school funding policies to allow CMSD to share a portion of local funding with charter schools the district deemed high performing. State per-pupil funding followed students out of district schools and into charter schools as a result of provisions of No Child Left Behind, as one of several consequences for districts with underperforming schools. Also, federal funds flowed to states through legislation specifically supporting the establishment of charter schools. Schools faced closure, followed by the opening up of educational facilities once publicly owned to privatized entities through charter school start-ups and new theme-based district schools in partnership with industry and nonprofit organizations.

These broader structural conditions and their historical significance provided the interpretive material to document the “webs of power that connect institutional and individual lives to larger social formations” (Weis & Fine, 2004 , p. xxi). These considerations were evident in the creative product as LiT prepared to communicate findings to the public. In a performative sharing of pain associated with school closure and the power in reframing this policy as unjust, vanessa jones and Eric Schilling integrated the poetry, images, and narratives of LiT members and produced a film, Lives in Transition: Eviction Notice (jones & Schilling, 2011 ). The film reflected the creative work of the youth in naming their reality and using creative arts to convey the findings from the PAR project to “retrieve and correct official or elitist history and reinterpret it according to class interests” (Fals-Borda, 2001 , p. 30). The metaphor of eviction reflected the realities of the lives of the youth, experienced in residential mobility. Now, as a result of state and local intervention through school accountability policies, students experienced the imposition of a decision with profound relational and material consequences. This counterstory was conveyed in the film.

In the spirit of questioning, a core value and epistemic activity in critical interpretive perspectives, we can see that the beginnings of PAR projects frequently emerge from a critique of dehumanizing structural arrangements and alienating cultural discourse. Those for whom the critique is most profoundly embodied play a central role in the participatory inquiry and action, displacing notions of expertise common within the academy. The tasks of engaging in dialogue and problem-posing often lead to discontinuities in understandings as situated standpoints produce differences in ways of being and knowing. In the next section, we discuss an additional dimension of PAR as we consider ethical commitments within collective production of knowledge.

Layering Collective Analyses

Participatory analysis in PAR involves a layering of collective analyses with critical theory and ethical praxis. The iterative process creates openings for deeper understandings. As the research process unfolds and analyses become more nuanced, new inquiries can organically emerge. Often new questions are prompted by shifting sociopolitical contexts—perhaps evolutions of issues that sparked the research in the first place. This in turn can inspire additional methods, data, and/or analyses.

After the first group of LiT youth researchers left the project to pursue jobs, family responsibilities, and postsecondary education, another group of 25 young people joined the project and extended the work of the earliest LiT collective. This second phase of the LiT project decided to build on earlier analyses with a survey of youth experiences of educational transitions imposed on students, their families, and teachers, without their deliberation. The survey was administered to 258 students across the seven schools that the 25 youth researchers attended, some of which were neighborhood comprehensive high schools while others were recently established theme-based district schools.

The decision to create the survey reflected a continued desire to flesh out and fill in the absent student expertise in the conversation about school reform. Collecting more data on school closure, students changing schools, student–teacher relationships, and transportation challenges from the perspective of the students in the district promised a more nuanced analysis. Notably, it represented an ethical praxis within PAR to center the knowledge and rights of those most impacted by the conditions being studied. The initial LiT research revealed that teachers and students were invested in their teaching and learning and had often built strong communities in their “failed” schools, and the data called the dominant discourse on “failing schools” into question. In this way the emphasis within PAR to engage iterative inquiry processes grounded in lived experiences, layered with critical sociopolitical analyses of contemporary and historical policy and practice, enabled the LiT collective to avoid slipping into reproducing prevalent analyses that stereotyped and dismissed the experience of students and teachers. Drawing on the lessons of DuBois and Freire to resist these seductive and simplistic individual-level analyses that obscure the responsibility of broader sociopolitical power reflects an ethical stance within PAR. Ontologically, this interpretive stance opens space for understanding the realities encountered by students in relation to the conditions under which they are forced to live.

In reviewing the survey data, the LiT research collective engaged in an analytical conversation with data from across the life of the first and second phase of the LiT project, alongside analyses of local history, educational policy, and current structural conditions. For example, survey data showed that 59% of the ninth-grade students said students and teachers did not get along very well. This large percentage signaled a serious break in relationships central to meaningful learning and social and emotional safety among students and teachers. It concerned members of LiT in that it echoed dominant narratives of teacher indifference and student recalcitrance. However, student data also indicated teacher qualities that the collective agreed were important, such as teachers encouraging critical thinking and challenging their students to work hard. Some of the open-ended data on the impact of school closure indicated grief and anger over the severing of productive student relationships with teachers.

How would this apparent contradiction in the data be represented in the reporting back of research findings? This presented not only a question about interpretive validity but also a question about ethical responsibility. As noted by Guishard et al. ( 2018 ), “Knowing and knowledge production inherently come with an epistemological responsibility that is simultaneously, an ethical responsibility” (para. 40). Guishard et al. underscore the ethics inherent in data interpretation and with Thomas Teo call upon researchers to be aware of the responsibility researchers have to interrogate their frames of analysis in order to avoid the reproduction of harm through what Teo ( 2011 ) refers to as epistemological violence directed at communities that have been and may be further marginalized when “equally plausible interpretations of the data are available” and not accessed (p. 247). What interpretation offered validity from a critical and multilayered analysis?

After some discussion of what contributes to teachers and students not getting along, Anne and her university colleagues drew from transcripts of PAR meetings in the first phase of LiT that spoke of strained relationships among students and between students and teachers as schools closed and schools in other neighborhoods received displaced students. Holding together the different forms of data as well as the social and political history in the district allowed the collective to develop a more contextualized and complicated interpretation of survey data.

For example, when the youth researchers dug deeper into the data on students attending multiple schools, they found most of the students responding to the survey reported changing schools at some point in their K–8 trajectory, with 35% reporting having changed schools five to nine times and 6% indicating that school changes occurred more than nine times (Steggert & Galletta, 2018 ). These staggering numbers felt like an important contradiction within a district that uses a K–8 school structure in order to maintain continuity across the elementary and middle school grades. The data points sparked a shift in analysis within the research collective, wherein the phenomenon of “teachers and students not getting along” was no longer easily understood as teacher or student obstinance or disrespect.

Instead a more nuanced interpretation emerged that considered forced relocation; alienation; interrupted student–teacher relations; and severed family and community roots, traditions, and practices. This produced a key theme in the LiT findings: school closure and frequent changing of schools was associated with challenges for youth socially and academically. Situated analytically in relation to the history of school reform initiatives carried out in the district, often exacerbating students’ access to educational opportunity, the data supported LiT’s critique of reform initiatives that failed to actually improve their schools, particularly those serving the most economically stressed neighborhoods. Youth researchers prepared creative products such as video, poetry, and music to report back findings specific to their schools, presenting their findings in classrooms and engaging students who participated in the survey in further problem-posing through these discussions (Giraldo-Garcia & Galletta, 2015 ).

The inclusion of sociopolitical analysis is a key element of a critical PAR praxis, one that involves illuminating the connections between “personal, micro-level experiences of sociopolitical inequities to larger macro-level sociological forces” (Wright, 2015 , p. 196). Wright links this form of analysis to Freire’s concept of critical consciousness, of grasping that which was “not perceived in its deeper implications (if indeed it was perceived at all)” (Freire, 1970/2016 , p. 83). Cahill, Rios-Moore, and Threatts ( 2008 ) engage similar analyses by posing three levels of interpretation, each intertwined with forms of social action: (a) involving looking “closely,” questioning, and examining how lived experience is influenced by broader economic and ideological processes; (b) seeing oneself and one’s community as connected to often unexamined histories; and (c) envisioning with others what could be possible as alternatives to the current struggles (pp. 90–92). We next examine what happened as the research collective engaged individuals and groups in positions of political power and influence when youth researchers and adult allies reported back their research findings.

Ethical Praxis and Epistemological Commitments

PAR opens up spaces within collectives of individuals differently positioned and engages standpoints of power and vulnerability. In doing so, dissonance and conflict arise, signaling moments of discontinuity. These moments offer potential for reframing existing knowledge and relationships. They also may result in the shutting down of transformative possibilities.

This is evident in the experience in which members of LiT reported back survey results. For example, LiT met with the leadership of the School Reform Partnership within Cleveland, the public-private partnership charged by the state with overseeing the city-wide school reform plan, to inform members of its board of the results of the survey. The School Reform Partnership involved elite membership of the city and county business leadership, influential private foundations, a charter organization supported by wealthy donors, higher education leadership, and local religious, community, and parent representatives.

Youth researchers Dana and Marcus arrived with Anne at the building that housed a major city foundation, where the School Reform Partnership also shared office space, described by Marcus as “really corporate-like.” When greeted by the director of this organization, it became clear the LiT reporting back session would take place with this individual and two staff, not the entire board of directors.

Marcus, Dana, and Anne shared the survey findings on the issue of school transportation, relationships between students, student–teacher relationships, frequency of students’ changing schools, and school closure. The clash of perspectives and vast differentials of power produced a stark clarity about how the district’s reform policy did not take the grounded experiences of students and teachers into account. It provided further evidence of one of the early themes of the first phase of the LiT research, that the reforms “were happening to us” without any form of participation along the way. Anne’s notes taken immediately after the meeting capture some of the exchange:

At one point Marcus spoke about what it was like to be at Granite Hill High School, designated by the district as an “investment” school. He talked about seeing his teachers face job insecurity in the school reform policy that required teachers to be interviewed for positions they had held previously, some for a long time. He noted, “students didn’t know if their teachers would be there” the following year . . . The Director of the School Reform Partnership seemed caught off guard by Marcus’ statement, his expression of concern for his teachers, and his affection toward his school. She commented that she hadn’t seen the reform strategies in the same way. Wouldn’t a student at Granite Hill express dissatisfaction with their school [given how poorly the school was performing]? There appeared to be some disjuncture evident to her at that moment, some gap between Marcus’ critique of the reform plan and her logic that “investment schools” were a way to remedy “failing schools.” She said something about not realizing students might love their schools even when their schools “failed” them.

The disjuncture at this moment within the meeting revealed a clear discontinuity of standpoints, commitments, and relations of power. At the same time, it offered the potential for producing new understandings. However, the potential opening apparent in this instance was not sustained or engaged. There was no opportunity to explore it further and produce new understandings and possibly reconfigure relationships or reframe the problems associated with underperforming schools in high-poverty neighborhoods. School closure and replacement, a possibility for Marcus’s school, was referred to as “inevitable” more than once by the director of the School Reform Partnership in talking with the LiT members. This reconnected to a moment three years earlier in the first phase of the LiT project when it was acknowledged that Granite Hill High School was “on the list.” This reference to a set of policy enactments that hung over students and teachers, something out of their control, was noted in a debriefing following the meeting of LiT with the partnership director. The following is an excerpt from the debriefing:

Anne: What point do you think engaged them the most? Marcus: Probably between transportation and school closings, school closings came up a lot. Dana: Yeah. Marcus: To the point that they’re unavoidable, or well, not unavoidable—they’re pretty much gonna happen at some point. Dana: Inevitable. Marcus: Yeah. Dana: Yeah and they kinda expressed that it's not necessarily all within their power if schools are closing but they agreed we need to make other aspects of students’ transition easier.

The naturalizing of the district’s reform strategy of school closure was so threaded through the conversation between the partnership leadership and the LiT members present that it appeared normative. This is evident in Marcus’s and Dana’s replication of the language of inevitability. Equally disturbing is the durability of statements repeated as real by Dana and Marcus when they reflected the director’s skirting of authority in the partnership’s involvement with school closures. In a setting where youth voice was presumably “heard,” the solution offered by the director during the meeting was to ease the transition for students but not end the policy of school closure. As noted by Anderson ( 2017 ), “In schools and districts, spaces for PAR open and close with frequency, making them risky and difficult to sustain when they challenge ‘NPM [new public management]’” (p. 440). The space of dissonance with its potential for transformation was cut short.

In the LiT project, this was evident in the discontinuity that surfaced, however momentary, in the meeting between LiT members and the School Reform Partnership director. Opening space for altering existing ways of knowing and being in relation, for interpretive ambiguity, and for relational dissonance creates cracks and fissures in the status quo from which transformational change might emerge. This level of change can feel impossible at times, for as Freire ( 2016 ) quotes from an unpublished work of José Luiz Fiori, “the structure of domination is maintained by its own mechanical and unconscious functionality” (p. 51, n 6). In the LiT project this dominant resistance was evidenced by the director’s ultimate dismissive statement of school closure as “inevitable.” Her comment, and the dissonance it created, provoked the LiT collective to spend time thinking about their own goals for their research, the ethics of representation, how the data they collected might be used for and against communities to which they felt responsible, which audiences were most important to them, and how they might best be engaged.

Engaging Action

In the iterative movement between inquiry and action throughout the life of a PAR project, the “action” of problem-posing takes as many forms—a reflection of the many different theories of change held by individual researchers and/or research collectives (Tuck & Yang, 2013 ). Typical understandings of action may involve engaging communities of interest in the findings of a PAR project or carrying out strategies responsive to the research findings, such as a plan to address issues uncovered through the research. Many PAR projects also recognize the transformative experiences of members of the research collective as actions (Zeller-Berkman, 2007 ). But actions can also occur or engage those who are “insiders to the problem” who were not involved in the PAR project, as well as press those not directly impacted but who are in positions of power as it relates to the research findings.

Engaging “outsiders” or those whose lives appear not to be directly impacted by the findings can be challenging to collectives interested in provoking sustained changes in thought and action. Moving a listener or, more broadly, an audience toward engaged witnessing from a position of bystanding (Watkins & Shulman, 2008 ) requires forms of “mutual implication” that some have been successful achieving through embodied and performative methodologies (Stoudt, Fox, & Fine, 2012 ). This is not an easy, or always possible, process. There are instances when opening understandings of mutual implication and/or a sense of connected futures are impeded by seemingly intractable dynamics of privilege that refuse to concede conditions of power (Bell, 1995 ). As a result, the ethical and epistemological commitments of critical PAR insist that collectives intentionally address ideological and structural relations. In the case of the LiT project, this meant deepening an understanding in the political and economic investments in corporate school reform.

To reach insiders familiar with the challenges young people faced within an increasingly privatized approach to school reform, such as other students and teachers, as well as those in decision-making positions in the district, the LiT collective agreed to present its findings at a prestigious city-wide gathering attended by youth, educators, district officials, and members of the School Reform Partnership. Sharing their mixed method study, including the survey data and autoethnographic texts, the youth researchers skillfully layered their lived experience in relation to historical and structural conditions. Youth in the audience, who had not been involved in the research, joined the LiT members at the podium twice, first to narrate stories from the open-ended survey data on transportation challenges getting to and from school and second to convey students’ responses to school closure.

Having deliberated on how best to offer a contextually valid frame from which to present survey findings, Marcus explained survey data and shared his grounded experience in school. During his part of the presentation, his focus was on the complex predicament students and teachers found themselves facing as their lives were shaped by the imposition of high-stakes state testing impacting students’ ability to graduate, teachers’ security in their jobs, and the longevity of schools to serve their communities. Marcus situated the finding that 59% of the ninth-grade students indicated that students and teachers did not get along in the fragile state of relations at the classroom level, revealing the complicity of local and state policy in creating untenable educational conditions:

stress might cause students and teachers to be more edgy towards each other due to the teacher being pressured about getting good scores. Teachers are evaluated on 4 dimensions of their teaching, which accounts for 50% of their evaluation. The other 50% is the scores students get on the state tests. This can lead to teachers getting stressed along with the students, which would alter the ways students and teachers would interact with each other. Teachers and students would be on edge and would react in negative ways. Not only that, but teachers' jobs would be on the line and students wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. (Galletta et al., 2014 )

In addition to forums for engaging differentially positioned audience members in research findings, other forms of PAR-related action may involve boycotts, walkouts, the use of performance for analysis and sharing back findings (Fox, 2011 ), securing agreements with administrators for school change (Ozer et al., 2010 ), accessible “back pocket reports” and open letters (Stoudt & Torre, 2014 ), social media activism, and messaging through hashtags, t-shirts, buttons, and the creative arts (Otero & Cammarota, 2011 ; Stoudt et al., 2015 ). Common threads across these forms of action provide a distinct break with existing ways of knowing and being in relation and an upending of that which is presumed natural or inevitable. In this manner, PAR addresses epistemological commitments and ontological imperatives as it reflects the desire among those most impacted by a social or educational problem to give it meaning and transformative potential, thus producing what Fals-Borda and Rahman ( 1991 ) refer to as “countervailing power.”

Through the story of the LiT project, we have illustrated critical moments within a PAR project when tensions flared as to the meaning of educational policy and its impact on students and teachers. In an active effort to spark change in the district and share research findings with the city’s leadership responsible for recommending school closure, members of the LiT project encountered contestation over what meaning youth gave to their relationships with teachers in academically struggling schools. The implications of the divergence were dismissed, school closure was labeled inevitable, and the effort to reframe the impact of school closure was shut down.

However, when tensions within PAR can be sustained, new meanings and new ways of being in relation surface. By staying open to different interpretations of data on “teachers and students not getting along,” the LiT research collective suspended the socially dominant discourse on “bad teaching” or “problem students” and pursued additional data sources. This enabled a deeper understanding of what was happening within and beyond classrooms that affected relationships between students and teachers. Contradictions that emerged in the clash between students’ lived experience and the city’s school reform logic offered the potential to generate new understandings. The participatory contact zone of the research collective held the dissonance and encouraged an interrogation of power that destabilized the privileged discourse and knowledge structures.

As the attacks on public education continue—and as capitalism, the rise of white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy strengthen—we find ourselves with a heightened sense of urgency for new ways of seeing, hearing, and understanding. We believe a PAR framework has the ability to create solidarity spaces for inquiry that can produce necessary knowledge for justice struggles in education and beyond. Participatory spaces are where people can come together 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. The extensive reach of privatization within public education, the narrowing public governance to business and philanthropic interests and priorities, and the deceptive branding of corporate reform as “equity” is sobering. PAR offers a research praxis of countervailing power and accumulative tremors to agitate static ways of knowing and being in relation and makes possible a generative approach to collective inquiry for transformation.


We acknowledge the contributions of Dr. vanessa jones to the Lives in Transition project, the support of Dr. Carmine Stewart, and the creativity, questioning, and care among the youth researchers, educators, graduate students, and community members who participated in our collective over multiple years.

Further Reading

  • Cahill, C. , Rios-Moore, I. , & Threatts, T. (2008). Open eyes—Different eyes: PAR as a process of personal and social transformation. In J. Cammarota & M. Fine (Eds.), Revolutionizing education: Youth participatory action research in motion (pp. 89–124). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Cammarota, J. , & Fine, M. (Eds.). (2008). Revolutionizing education: Youth participatory action research in motion . New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Caraballo, L. , Lozenski, B. D. , Lyiscott, J. , & Morrell, E. (2017). YPAR and critical epistemologies: Rethinking education research . Review of Research in Education , 41 , 311–336.
  • Drame, E. R. , & Irby, D. (2016). Black participatory research: Power, identity, and the struggle for justice in education . New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Fals-Borda, O. , & Rahman, M. A. (Eds.). (1991). Action and knowledge: Breaking the monopoly with participatory action-research . New York, NY: Apex.
  • Freire, P. (2016). Pedagogy of the oppressed . New York, NY: Bloomsbury. (Original work published 1970.)
  • Galletta, A. (2017). Exploring generative dissonance: Inten[s]ional states and relational interruptions . Social & Personality Psychology Compass , 11 (9).
  • Giraldo-Garcia, R. , & Galletta, A. (2015). What happened to our sense of justice? Tracing agency, inquiry, and action in a youth participatory action research (PAR) project. Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, & Research , 11 , 91–98.
  • Guishard, M. (2009). The false paths, the endless labors, the turns now this way and now that: Participatory action research, and the politics of inquiry. Urban Review , 41 (1), 85–105.
  • Guishard, M. , Halkevic, A. , Galletta, A. , & Li, P. (2018). Toward epistemological ethics: Centering communities and social justice in qualitative research . Forum Qualitative Social Research , 19 (3).
  • Irizarry, J. G. , & Brown, T. M. (2014). Humanizing research in dehumanizing spaces: The challenges and opportunities of conducting participatory action research with youth in schools. In D. Paris & M. T. Winn (Eds.), Humanizing research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities (pp. 63–80). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.
  • jones, v. , Stewart, C. , Ayala, J. , & Galletta, A. (2015). Expressions of agency: Contemplating youth voice and adult roles in participatory action research. In J. Conner , R. Ebby-Rosin , & A. Slattery (Eds.), National Society for the Study of Education Yearbook: Student voice in American educational policy (pp. 135–152). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Kohfeldt, D. , Chunn, L. , Grace, S. , & Langhout, R. D. (2011). Youth empowerment in context: Exploring tensions in school-based yPAR . American Journal of Community Psychology , 47 , 28–45.
  • Lewin, K. (1997). Resolving social conflicts: Selected papers on group dynamics . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. (Original work published 1948.)
  • Otero, L. R. , & Cammarota, J. (2011). Notes from ethnic studies home front: Student protests, texting, and subtexts of oppression. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education , 24 (5), 639–648.
  • Ozer, E. , Ritterman, M. L. , & Wanis, M. G. (2010). Participatory action research (PAR) in middle school: Opportunities, constraints, and key processes . American Journal of Community Psychology , 46 , 152–166.
  • Rahman, A. (1985). The theory and practice of participatory action research. In O. Fals-Borda (Ed.), The challenge of social change (pp. 107–131). London, U.K.: SAGE.
  • Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples (2nd ed.). London, U.K.: Zed Books.
  • Stoudt, B. , Fox, M. , & Fine, M. (2012). Contesting privilege with critical participatory action research. Journal of Social Issues , 68 (1), 178–193.
  • Stoudt, B. G. , & Torre, M. E. (2014). The Morris Justice Project: Participatory action research . In P. Brindle (Ed.), SAGE cases in methodology . London, U.K.: SAGE.
  • Stoudt, B. G. , Torre, M. E. , Bartley, P. , Bracy, F. , Caldwell, H. , Downs, A. , . . . Yates, J. (2015). Participatory action research and policy change. In C. Durose & L. Richardson (Eds.), Designing public policy for co-production: Theory, practice and change (pp. 125–137). Bristol, U.K.: Policy Press.
  • Torre, M. E. (2005). The alchemy of integrated spaces: Youth participation in research collectives of difference. In L. Weis & M. Fine (Eds.), Beyond silenced voices (pp. 251–266). Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Torre, M. E. , & Fine, M. (2006). Participatory action research (PAR) by youth. In L. Sherrod , C. Flanagan , & R. Kassimir (Eds.), Youth activism: An international encyclopedia (pp. 456–462). Westport, CT: Greenwood.
  • Torre, M. E. , & Fine, M. (2011). A wrinkle in time: Tracing a legacy of public science through community self-surveys and participatory action research. Journal of Social Issues , 67 (1), 106–121.
  • Torre, M. E. , Fine, M. , Stoudt, B. , & Manoff, E. (2017). Critical participatory action research on state violence: Bearing wit(h)ness across fault lines of power, privilege and dispossession. In N. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (5th ed., pp. 492–515). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Torre, M. E. & Fine, M. with Alexander, N. , Billups, A. , Blanding, Y. , Genao, E. , Marboe, M. , & Salah, T. (2008). Participatory action research in the contact zone. In J. Cammarota & M. Fine (Eds.), Revolutionizing education: Youth participatory action research in motion (pp. 23–43). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Tuck, E. , Allen, J , Bacha, M. , Morales, A. , Quinter, S. , Thompson, J. , & Tuck, M. (2008). PAR Praxes for now and future change: The Collective of Researchers on Educational Disappointment and Desire. In J. Cammarota & M. Fine (Eds.), Revolutionizing education: Youth participatory action research in motion (pp. 49–83). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Tuck, E. , & Yang, K. W. (2013). Thinking with youth about theories of change. In E. Tuck & K. W. Yang (Eds.), Youth resistance research and theories of change (pp. 125–138). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Wright, D. E. (2015). Active learning: Social justice education and participatory action research . New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Zeller-Berkman, S. (2014). Lineages: A past, present and future of participatory action research. In P. Leavy (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of qualitative research (pp. 518–531). New York: NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Anderson, G. (2017). Participatory action research (PAR) as democratic disruption: New public management and educational research in schools and universities . International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education , 30 (5), 432–449.
  • Au, W. , & Ferrare, J. J. (Eds.). (2015). Mapping corporate education reform: Power and policy networks in the neoliberal state . New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Ayala, J. , Cammarota, J. , Rivera, M. , Rodriguez, L. F. , Berta-Avila, M. , & Torre, M. E. (Eds.). (2018). PAR EntreMundos: A pedagogy of the Americas . New York, NY: Peter Lang.
  • Ball, S. J. , & Junemann, C. (2012). Networks, new governance, and education . Bristol, U.K.: Policy Press.
  • Bell, D. A. (1995). Brown v Board of Education and the interest convergence. In K. Crenshaw , N. Gotanda , G. Peller , & K. Thomas (Eds.), Critical race theory: The key writings from the movement (pp. 20–29). New York, NY: The New Press.
  • Cahill, C. , Rios-Moore, I. , & Threatts, T. (2008). Open eyes—different eyes: PAR as a process of personal and social transformation. In J. Cammarota & M. Fine (Eds.), Revolutionizing education: Youth participatory action research in motion (pp. 89–124). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Cahill, C. , Stoudt, B. G. , Matles, A. , Belmonte, K. , Djokovic, S. , Lopez, J. , . . . Darian, X. (2017). The right to the sidewalk: The struggle over broken windows policing, young people, and NYC streets. In J. Hou & S. Knierbein (Eds.), City unsilenced: Urban resistance and public space in the age of shrinking democracy (pp. 94–105). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Cahill, C. , Torre, M. , Futch, V. , Stoudt, B. , & Zeller-Berkman, S. (2006, March). Actively involved: Collaborative approaches for researching with young people across difference . Paper presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence Biennial Convention, San Francisco, CA.
  • Cherry, F. , & Borshuk, C. (1998). Social action research and the Commission on Community Interrelations . Journal of Social Issues , 54 (1), 119–142.
  • Chiu, L. F. (2006). Critical reflection: More than nuts and bolts. Action Research , 4 (2), 183–203.
  • Collins, P. H. (1998). Fighting words: Black women and the search for justice . Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Cucchiara, M. B. (2013). Marketing schools, marketing cities: Who wins and who loses when schools become urban amenities . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Davies, B. (2003). Death to critique and dissent? The policies and practices of new managerialism and “evidence-based practice” . Gender and Education , 15 (1), 91–103.
  • Engels, F. (1946). Ludwig Feuerbach and the end of classical German philosophy . Moscow, Russia: Progress Publishers. (Original work published 1886.)
  • Fabricant, M. , & Fine, M. (2012). Charter schools and the corporate makeover of public education: What’s at stake? New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Fals-Borda, O. (1977). Por la praxis: El problema de cómo investigar la realidad para transformarla. In O. Fals-Borda (Ed.), Crítica y Política en Ciencias Sociales . Bogotá, Colombia: Punta de Lanza.
  • Fals-Borda, O. (2001). Participatory (action) research in social theory: Origins and challenges. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.), Handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice (pp. 27–37). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Fine, M. , & Ruglis, J. (2009). Circuits and consequences of dispossession: The racialized realignment of the public youth for U.S. youth. Transforming Anthropology , 17 (1), 20–33.
  • Fox, M. (2011). Literate bodies: Multi-generational participatory action research and embodied methodologies as critical literacy. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy , 55 (4), 343–345.
  • Galletta, A. (2019). Critical layering in participatory inquiry and action: Praxis and pedagogy in seeking educational change. In K. O’Doherty & D. Hodgetts (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of applied social psychology (pp. 467–488). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.
  • Galletta, A. , Bisesi, A. , Evans, C. , Giraldo-Garcia, R. , Gullatt, L. , Sterritt, M. , . . . Watson, T. (2014, August). We the students: More than just a number . Presentation at the City Club of Cleveland, Cleveland, OH.
  • Giridharadas, A. (2018). Winners take all: The elite charade of changing the world . New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Greene, M. (1995). Releasing the imagination: Essays on education, the arts, and social change . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Hall, S. (1993). Encoding, decoding. In S. During (Ed.), The cultural studies reader (pp. 90–102). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Harding, S. (1991). Whose science? Whose knowledge? Thinking from women’s lives . Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Harvey, D. (2004). The new imperialism: Accumulation by dispossession. Socialist Register , 40 , 63–87.
  • Hoare, Q. , & Smith, G. N. (Eds. & Trans.). (2000). Selections from the prison notebooks of Antonio Gramsci . New York, NY: International Publishers. (Original work published 1971.)
  • jones, v. (2012). Art as method: Complicating tales of visual stenography and implications for urban education and research (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation).
  • jones, v. , & Schilling, E. (Producers). (2011). Lives in transition: Eviction notice [Video] .
  • Kimelberg, S. M. (2014). Middle-class parents, risk, and urban schools. In A. Lareau & K. Goyette (Eds.), Choosing homes, choosing schools (pp. 207–236). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Koretz, D. (2017). The testing charade: Pretending to make schools better . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Kosciw, J. G. , Greytak, E. A. , Zongrone, A. D. , Clark, C. M. , & Truong, N. L. (2017). The 2017 National School Climate Survey: The experience of lesbian, gay, transgender, and queer youth in our nation’s schools . Washington, DC: GLSEN.
  • Lareau, A. (2014). Schools, housing, and the reproduction of inequality. In A. Lareau & K. Goyette (Eds.), Choosing homes, choosing schools (pp. 169–206). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Lather, P. (2004). Scientific research in education: A critical perspective. British Educational Research Journal , 30 (6), 759–772.
  • Lhamon, C. E. , & Gupta, V. (2014, January 8). Dear colleague [letter on the nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline] . Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education.
  • Lhamon, C. E. , & Gupta, V. (2016, May 13). Dear colleague letter on transgender students . Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education.
  • Lipman, P. (2004). High-stakes education: Inequality, globalization, and urban school reform . New York, NY: Routledge/Falmer.
  • Lipman, P. (2016). School closings: The nexus of White supremacy, state abandonment, and accumulation by dispossession. In B. Picower & E. Mayorga (Eds.), What race got to do with it? How current school reform policy maintains racial and economic inequality (pp. 58–79). New York, NY: Peter Lang.
  • Morrow, R. A. , & Torres, C. A. (1995). Social theory and education: A critique of theories of social and cultural reproduction . Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Nicholls, R. (2009). Research and indigenous participation: Critical reflexive methods. International Journal of Social Research Methodology , 12 (2), 117–126.
  • Pattillo, M. , Delale-O’Connor, L. , & Butts, F. (2014). High-stakes choosing. In A. Lareau & K. Goyette (Eds.), Choosing homes, choosing schools (pp. 237–267). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Posey-Maddox, L. (2014). When middle-class parents choose urban schools: Class, race and the challenge of equity in public education . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • Rahman, A. (1985). The theory and practice of participatory action research. In O. Fals-Borda (Ed.), The challenge of social change (pp. 107–132). London, U.K.: SAGE.
  • Rahman, M. A. , & Fals-Borda, O. (Eds.). (1991). A self-review of PAR. In O. Fals-Borda & M. A. Rahman (Eds.), Action and knowledge (pp. 24–34). New York, NY: The Apex Press.
  • Rebell, M. A. , & Wolff, J. R. (2008). Moving every child ahead: From NCLB hype to meaningful educational opportunity . New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Steggert, S. , & Galletta, A. (2018). The press for accountability at the nexus of resilience, estrangement, hope, and inequity . Journal of Urban Affairs . [Advance online publication]
  • Teo, T. (2011). Empirical race psychology and the hermeneutics of epistemological violence. Human Studies , 34 (3), 237–255.
  • Torre, M. E. (2009). Participatory action research and critical race theory: Fueling spaces for nos-otras to research. Urban Review , 41 (1), 106–120.
  • Torre, M. E. , & Fine, M. , with Alexander, N. , Billups, A. , Blanding, Y. , Genao, E. , Marboe, M. , & Salah, T. (2008). Participatory action research in the contact zone. In J. Cammarota & M. Fine (Eds.), Revolutionizing education: Youth participatory action research in motion (pp. 23–43). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Tuck, E. , Allen, J. , Bacha, M. , Morales, A. , Quinter, S. , Thompson, J. , & Tuck, M. (2008). PAR Praxes for now and future change: The Collective of Researchers on Educational Disappointment and Desire. In J. Cammarota & M. Fine (Eds.), Revolutionizing education: Youth participatory action research in motion (pp. 49–83). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • U.S. Department of Education . (2018). Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as Amended through P.L. 115–224, Enacted July 31, 2018 . Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
  • Watkins, M. , & Shulman, H. (2008). Toward psychologies of liberation . New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Weis, L. , & Fine, M. (2004). Working method: Research and social justice . New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Wormser, M. H. , & Selltiz, C. (1951). How to conduct a self-survey of civil rights . New York, NY: Association Press.
  • Zeller-Berkman, S. (2007). Peering-in: A look into reflective practices in youth participatory action research. Children, Youth and Environments , 17 (2), 315–328.

1. When using the term participatory action research or PAR in this article we are referring to a framework that attends to relational, structural, and cultural arrangements of power throughout the research process. While at times we signal this specifically by describing the approach as “critical,” for the ease of reading we ask the reader to understand that this is always implied.

2. Although the city, school district, and university are identified, all student, teacher, and high school names are pseudonyms.

Related Articles

  • Critical Race Theory
  • Urban School Reform in the United States
  • Accountabilities in Schools and School Systems
  • Ethnography and Education
  • Qualitative Design Research Methods
  • Qualitative Approaches to Studying Marginalized Communities

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Education. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 06 July 2024

  • Cookie Policy
  • Privacy Policy
  • Legal Notice
  • Accessibility
  • []

Character limit 500 /500

Participatory Action Research

  • Reference work entry
  • pp 1323–1327
  • Cite this reference work entry

participatory action research

  • María Elena Torre 2  

1444 Accesses


Rooted in notions of democracy and social justice and drawing on critical theory (feminist, critical race, queer, disability, neo-Marxist, indigenous, and/or post-structural), the term participatory action research refers to an epistemology that engages research design, methods, analyses, and products through a lens of democratic participation and collective action.

Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to research committed to democratic principles of justice and equality. It is an inclusive practice of research defined both by participation and a determination to produce knowledge in the interest of social change. While often regarded as simply a method, PAR is actually an epistemological stance that values knowledge produced from lived experience as equal to that produced in the academy and, in so doing, expands traditional notions of expertise. In expanding what counts as “expertise,” PAR also extends “the right to research” (Appadurai, 2006 )...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Institutional subscriptions

Addams, J. (Ed.) (1896). Hull-house maps and papers: A presentation of nationalities and wages in a congested district of Chicago, together with comments and essays on problems growing out of the social conditions .

Google Scholar  

Allport, G. W. (1951). [Foreword]. In M. H. Wormser & C. Selltiz (Eds.), How to conduct a self-survey of civil rights . New York: Association Press.

Appadurai, A. (2006). The right to research. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 4 (2), 167–177.

Cahill, C., Sultana, F., Pain, R. (Eds.). (2007). Special issue: Participatory ethics. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 6 , 3.

Cherry, F., & Borshuk, C. (1998). Social action research and the commission on community interrelations. Journal of Social Issues, 54 (1), 119–142.

Cooke, B., & Kothari, U. (2001). Participation: The new Tyranny? London: Zed Books.

DuBois, W. E. B. (1898). The study of the Negro problems . Philadelphia: American Academy of Political and Social Science.

Fals Borda, O. (1977). Por la praxis: El problema de cómo investigar la realidad para transformarla. In O. Fals-Borda (Ed.), Crítica y Política en Ciencias Sociales . Bogotá, Colombia: Punta de Lanza.

Fals Borda, O., & Rahman, M. A. (1991). Introduction in action and knowledge: Breaking the monopoly with participatory action-research (pp. 3–34). New York: The Apex Press.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed . New York: Herder and Herder.

Gramsci, A. (1971). Prison notebooks . New York: International Publishers.

Lewin, K. (1946). Action research and minority problems. Journal of Social Issues, 2 (4), 34–46.

Lewis, H. M. (2006). Participatory research and education for social change: Highlander research and education center. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.), Handbook of action research, concise paperback edition (pp. 262–268). London: Sage.

Torre, M. E. (2005). The alchemy of integrated spaces: Youth participation in research collectives of difference. In L. Weis & M. Fine (Eds.), Beyond silenced voices (pp. 251–266). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Torre, M. E., & Fine, M. (2011). A wrinkle in time: Tracing a legacy of public science through community self-surveys and participatory action research. Journal of Social Issues, 67 (1), 106–121.

Torre, M. E., Fine, M., Stoudt, B., & Fox, M. (2012). Critical participatory action research as public science. In P. Camic & H. Cooper (Eds.), The handbook of qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design (2nd ed., pp. 171–184). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Wormser, M. H., & Selltiz, C. (1951). How to conduct a self-survey of civil rights . New York: Association Press.

Online Resources

The public science project.

The data center.

M. Brinton Lykes’s participatory action research resource website (tools, websites, and links to journals).∼lykes/research.htm

ACME special issue on participatory ethics.

The John Gardner center for youth and their communities.

Download references

Author information

Authors and affiliations.

Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY, USA

María Elena Torre

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar

Corresponding author

Correspondence to María Elena Torre .

Editor information

Editors and affiliations.

Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York

About this entry

Cite this entry.

Torre, M.E. (2014). Participatory Action Research. In: Teo, T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology. Springer, New York, NY.

Download citation


Publisher Name : Springer, New York, NY

Print ISBN : 978-1-4614-5582-0

Online ISBN : 978-1-4614-5583-7

eBook Packages : Springer Reference Behavioral Sciences

Share this entry

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

  • Publish with us

Policies and ethics

  • Find a journal
  • Track your research


  1. Participatory Action Research framework to guide Phases 1-3.

    participatory action research

  2. Participatory research (eBook)

    participatory action research

  3. Why choose participatory action research?

    participatory action research

  4. Participatory Action Research Presentation

    participatory action research

  5. What is Participatory Learning and Action (PLA)?

    participatory action research

  6. objectives for conducting community dialogue

    participatory action research


  1. Introducing Participatory Action Research (PAR)

  2. Community Organizing Participatory Action Research 1080P

  3. Dr. Kevin J. Burke

  4. Participatory Action Research (4E)

  5. Farmer's understanding of participatory action research

  6. Metode Penelitian Participatory Action Research (PkM)


  1. Participatory action research - Wikipedia">Participatory action research - Wikipedia

    Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to action research emphasizing participation and action by members of communities affected by that research. It seeks to understand the world by trying to change it, collaboratively and following reflection.

  2. Participatory action research | Nature Reviews Methods Primers">Participatory action research | Nature Reviews Methods Primers

    Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to research that prioritizes the value of experiential knowledge for tackling problems caused by unequal and harmful social systems, and for...

  3. PAR? | Participatory Action Research at MIT">What is PAR? | Participatory Action Research at MIT

    Instead, I advocate a very different approach to applied social science called Participatory Acton Research (PAR). PAR produces “actionable” knowledge by focusing on individual situations rather than on statistical analysis of large samples or controlled experiments.

  4. Participatory Action Research | Participatory Methods">Participatory Action Research | Participatory Methods

    Participatory Action Research (PAR) is an approach to enquiry which has been used since the 1940s. It involves researchers and participants working together to understand a problematic situation and change it for the better.

  5. Participatory Action Research? Contemporary Methodological ...">What Is Participatory Action Research? Contemporary...

    Chapter 1 outlines the key characteristics of Participatory Action Research (PAR), a methodology or approach that privileges active involvement of people with lived experiences, or co-researchers, to generate findings and strategies to effect change.

  6. Participatory Action Research: International Perspectives and Practices ...">Participatory Action Research: International Perspectives and...

    Participatory Action Research has traditionally focused on work in communities that have been marginalized based on race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, and poverty.

  7. Understanding participatory action research: A qualitative ...">(PDF) Understanding participatory action research: A qualitative...

    Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a qualitative research methodology option that requires further understanding and consideration. PAR is considered democratic, equitable, liberating, and...

  8. Participatory Action Research in Education | Oxford Research ...">Participatory Action Research in Education | Oxford Research ...

    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.

  9. Participatory Action Research as Public Science">Participatory Action Research as Public Science

    Participatory Action Research (PAR) provides a critical framework for making science – systematic inquiry and analysis – a public enterprise. Allied with feminist, critical race, and indigenous theory, PAR is an approach to research that values the significant knowledge people hold about their lives and experiences.

  10. Participatory Action Research | SpringerLink">Participatory Action Research | SpringerLink

    Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to research committed to democratic principles of justice and equality. It is an inclusive practice of research defined both by participation and a determination to produce knowledge in the interest of social change.