Philippine Normal University
COLLEGE OF EDUCATION
Taft Avenue, Manila
Semester, SY 2012-2013
ED 503: Research Methods and Scientific Writing
2:00 – 5:00 PM, Saturdays, CED 203
Prof. Lolita H. Nava, Ph.D.
PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH
Reynante S. Tagum
M.A. in Education major in Guidance & Counseling
• A collaborative process of research, education and action (Hall 1981) explicitly oriented towards social
transformation (McTaggart 1997).
• Involves researchers and participants working together to examine a problematic situation or action to
change it for the better (Wadsworth 1998).
• Participatory research has three key elements: people, power and praxis (Finn, 1994). It is people-
centered (Brown, 1985) in the sense that the process of critical inquiry is informed by and responds to
the experiences and needs of people involved. Participatory research is about power. Power is crucial to
the construction of reality, language, meanings and rituals of truth; power functions in all knowledge and
in every definition. Power is knowledge and knowledge creates truth and therefore power (Foucault,
1980). Participatory research is also about praxis. It recognizes the inseparability of theory and practice
and critical awareness of the personal-political dialectic.
• What this research tradition provides is a shared commitment to fundamentally disrupt conventional
hierarchies of knowledge production: who decides on the questions to ask, how to ask them, and how to
theorize the world. (Geraldine Pratt in collaboration with the Philippine Women Center of BC and
Ugnayan Kabataany Pilipino sa Canada/Filipino- Canadian Youth Alliance, 2007)
Participatory Action Research
• Is an attribute of action research in which the problem is determined by the people who believe and feel
that the problem is really a problem in the local setting and the solution to the problem is within the
same setting without intention of generalizing its results.
• Double objective of PAR: One aim is to produce knowledge and action directly useful to a group of
people through research, adult education or socio-political action. The second aim is to empower people
at a second and deeper level through the process of constructing and using their own knowledge.
• A participatory, democratic process concerned with developing practical knowing in the pursuit of
worthwhile human purposes, grounded in a participatory world-view….[and bringing] together action
and reflection, theory and practice, in participation with others in the pursuit of practical solutions to
issues of pressing concern to people, and more generally the flourishing of individual persons and
communities (Reason & Bradbury, 2001) .
• It is about jointly producing knowledge with others to produce critical interpretations and readings of the
world, which are accessible, understandable to all those involved and actionable (Paul Chatterton,
Duncan Fuller & Paul Routledge, 2007).
• Participatory action research is a form of action research in which professional social researchers operate
as full collaborators with members of organizations in studying and transforming those organizations. It
is an ongoing organizational learning process, a research approach that emphasizes co-learning,
participation and organizational transformation (Greenwood et al, 1993).
From these definitions we can see that PAR has some key components:
• a focus on change – commitment to participate with people to improve and understand the world by
changing it (McIntyre, 2008) although there are differences between researchers as to the scale of that
change and the degree to which it is focused on promoting democracy and reducing inequality;
• context-specific – it is generally targeted around the needs of a particular group although this can vary
in size from small teams to projects encompassing entire communities;
• emphasis on collaboration – researchers and participants working together to examine a problematic
situation or action to change it for the better, although there are differences in opinion as to how much
collaboration is possible or necessary;
• a cyclical process – an iterative cycle of research, action and reflection (Kindon et al, 2006) underpins
the research process although it is not always clear how this happens in practice;
• participants are competent and reflexive and capable of participating in the entire research process
although researchers may adopt different standards as to the level of participation that ‘qualifies’ as
• knowledge is generated through participants’ collective efforts and actions;
• liberatory – PAR seeks to ‘liberate’ participants to have a greater awareness of their situation in order to
take action, although for some researchers the emphasis on liberation will be tempered;
• PAR is not just another method – more an orientation to inquiry – this means that many different
methods are possible (quantitative and qualitative);
• success is some personal or collective change – for some researchers it “depends on the
credibility/validity of knowledge derived from the process according to whether the resulting action
solves problems for the people involved and increases community self-determination” (Kindon et al,
2007:14) but for others the emphasis is on developing theories and practices that can be shared.
Table 1. Participatory and conventional research: a comparison of process
Participatory research Conventional research
What is the research for? Action Understanding with perhaps action later
Who is the research for? Local people
Institution, personal and professional
Whose knowledge counts? Local people's Scientists'
Topic choice influenced by? Local priorities
Funding priorities, institutional agendas,
Methodology chosen for? Empowerment, mutual learning
Disciplinary conventions. 'objectivity' and
Who takes part in the stages of research
Problem identification Local people Researcher
Data collection Local people Researcher
Interpretation Local concepts and frameworks Disciplinary concepts and frameworks
Analysis Local people Researcher
Presentation of findings Locally accessible and useful
By researcher to other academics or funding
Action on findings Integral to the process Separate and may not happen
Who takes action? Local people, with/without external support External agencies
Who owns the results? Shared The researcher
What is emphasized Process Outcomes
Figure 1. How PAR operates in an iterative, cyclical mode
The cycle takes the following steps:
• A problem, issue, or desire for change is identified by the community of research interest.
• Initial collaboration takes place between the community of research interest and the researcher
and planning how to tackle the problem then begins.
• The developed plan is then put into action.
• The action and its outcomes are then observed again by the community of research interest and
• The final stage in the first cycle is to reflect on the action and its outcomes.
• If this reflection leads to an assessment that the first action step was effective, then the process of
planning, action, observing and reflecting starts again, building on this initial success.
• If the reflection deems the first action unsuccessful or not as successful as anticipated, then these
outcomes are taken into consideration in the planning of new or different action in the next cycle
of planning action, observation and reflection.
• The cycle continues in as many iterations as needed to resolve the problem or reach the
objective. As with all aspects of PAR, the deeming of a problem as solved or an objective as
reached is a collaborative one.
As demonstrated in the model, the new cycle of the PAR process does not repeat the old cycle.
Rather the planning, acting, observing and reflecting of the previous cycle inform and shape the next
cycle. The PAR process is therefore self-evaluative, involving a constant evaluation of its process and
modifications to adjust the research problem articulation and research practice.
Characteristics of Participatory Action Researched
1. People-oriented. Participatory action research is people-oriented in the sense that it is the people who
believe and feel that there is a problem. Everybody is involved in solving the problem from the planning
stage to the implementation stage.
2. Community involvement. The community is involved in conducting participatory action research.
3. Group-research. The group is composed of the research team and the research participants should
cooperate with each other to solve the social problems, from planning stage to implementation stage.
4. Big crowd. The participatory action research involved big crowd, especially during the general assembly
meeting with research team and research participants. Even if a big crowd is involved during the general
assembly, everybody's idea is entertained by the research team leader who presides the meeting.
5. Political involvement. The politicians such as the congressman, governor, mayor, barangay captains, and
many others should get involved in the research process to make the solving of the social problems
easier and faster.
Framework of Participatory Action Research
1. Identification of the problem and community. The problem and the community that come across the
problem should be identified to know if the people who reside in the said community really believe and
feel that the problem is common to them.
2. Statement of the goals/objectives. The goals and objectives of the participatory action research projects
should be explicitly stated to serve as guide for the research team and research participants.
3. Identification of participants. Participants to the research include all members of the community as well
as researchers. They will be divided into groups of committees according to their experiences,
knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the tasks assigned to them.
4. Organization of the research team. When participants have been identified, then the research team
should be organized to serve as governing body of the research process to oversee the remedial measures
and solutions to the problems.
5. Establishment of timetable. The research team and research participants should be given a timetable to
complete the task assigned to them.
6. Conduct of the participatory action research project. The research team and research participants should
cooperate with each other to conduct the participatory research project in order to find solution to a
7. Evaluation of results. The research team should evaluate the integrative output of the different group of
participants. In other words, each committee should submit their results to the research team for
evaluation and review.
8. Interpretation of the findings. After reviewing and evaluating the research output, research team should
interpret the findings.
9. Implications / recommendations. The research team should cite the implications of the present problem
to another problem based on the findings of the study.
10. Implementation. The research team and research participants should implement as soon as possible the
solution to the problem based on the findings and recommendations.
Advantages of Participatory Action Research
1. Research participants increases their knowledge and ideas as well as valid analysis of social reality, thus,
more relevant solutions are achieved.
2. Both researchers and subjects of the study gain more from the research process when the researchers
attain greater sensitivity and self-awareness of the problems.
3. The subject of the study gain trust and self-confidence at their own rate and resources to improve their
4. Good relationship can be developed among the research team, research participants, and people in the
5. Humanistic approach is enhanced through involvement of everyone in solving social problems.
Disadvantages of Participatory Action Research
1. It is time consuming because it takes time to involve many people in conducting research.
2. It is difficult to gather people and manage to attend the general assembly due to large number of people
3. When the research team back-out while the research process is going on, a new team is created
therefore you have to start all over again.
4. The research team may use their power to personal needs and most of the benefits go to them.
5. Politicians who get involved in the research process may use traditional techniques and the said
technique may prevail.
6. Abuse of discretion by research team may be practiced due to too much trust and confidence by the
research participants and subjects of the study to them and they do not check and balance their activities.
7. With full people's participation, factors such as experiences, educational qualifications, socio-economic
status , knowledge, abilities and skills will affect the benefit of the participants. The less experiences,
knowledge, abilities and skills one has in participating, the less one benefits from the system.
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