Session title:

Teaching, Learning and Applying Participatory Action Research:
Challenges, Signs of Success and Further Questions Raised.
Parts I, II and III

Session organizers:

Patricia J. Hammer (Center for Social Well Being)
Joyce D. Hammond (Western Washington University)


Session abstract:
There is increasing interest by students to gain orientation to Participatory Action Research as a means to acquire practical abilities to facilitate reflection, analysis, planning and action among communities of research. However, there exist few formal guidelines for assembling PAR courses offered in related disciplines of psychology, public health and anthropology, as well as in non-academic training settings, such as non-profit and civic organizations. This three-part session presents perspectives of PAR teachers and learners who will share significant experiences, insights and approaches that aid in the conceptualization and practice of the methodology, as well as dilemmas, drawbacks and difficulties intrinsic to teaching, comprehension and application of PAR methods. Part two opens the floor to PAR practitioners who will discuss and demonstrate recommended techniques.



1) Principal author: Maria Hicks (Western Washington University)
Jason Miller, (Linn-Benton Community College)
Rowenn Kalman, (Western Washington University)
Chris Flack (University of British Columbia)
Joyce D. Hammond (Western Washington University)

Title: PAR for the Course
In the past three years, four graduate students and a faculty member have co-taught a participatory action research (PAR) course at Western Washington University. Two of the co-teachers also took the course as students. In this paper, all five co-teachers unite to share their experiences of using pedagogical principles and practices that create a PAR-oriented classroom. PAR in the classroom parallels, supports and amplifies PAR lessons students learn in their community partnerships. Through dialogue, community, and practice of research methods, the PAR classroom establishes congruency between students' community PAR projects and the in-class learning in which students engage each week.

2) Principal author: Flor Barreto Tosi (Center for Social Well Being)
Co-author: Patricia J. Hammer (Center for Social Well Being)

Title: Voices of Experience Shape Anthropology Practice
Since 2002 the Peruvian-based Center for Social Well Being has offered a medical anthropology field school taught by a team of healers, health workers and community leaders who promote Andean knowledge and practices in an experiential learning setting. This discussion provides perspectives on the problematic issues of Western-educated students’ abilities to apprehend Andean ways of knowing in context. The course axis is Participatory Action Research applied in a dual sense, both to orient students to the field, as well as an ethical means to engage with community members. Andean local experts reflect on their collaboration in anthropological training endeavors aimed to contribute to the formation of socially conscious practicing anthropologists.

3) Principal author: Sara Hoerlein (Colorado State University-Fort Collins)
Co-author: Christy Eylar (Colorado State University-Fort Collins)

Title: Participatory Action Research and its Effectiveness as a Tool in the Often
Fast-Paced Reality of Graduate Research Projects

PAR methodologies are rarely supported, or even recognized as legitimate or effective strategies for social science graduate research. After experimenting with PAR methodologies through the Center for Social Well Being in Peru, as well as in other contexts, we decided to utilize some of these strategies for graduate research in the Bolivian mining community of Porco. Our research there focused on economic and health related issues and strategies. While the research that we conducted still involved some of the more traditional social science research approaches, it was found that the integration of PAR strategies enhanced these other methods by allowing us to get to know community members and their needs and concerns more quickly and easily, as well as creating an environment where they could gain a greater sense of empowerment and understanding amongst themselves on these issues. We will discuss how this integrated approach made our graduate research less about the farming of information by the researchers, and more about how these researchers could be utilized by the community.

Part I Session Discussant: Bonnie Glass-Coffin (Utah State University)

Part II:


1. Mary Haycox (Western Washington University)
2. Katherine Martinolich Hostnik (Western Washington University)
3. Jordan Morris (Western Washington University)
4. Rachel Cleary (Western Washington University)
5. Frederick J. Dent (Western Washington University)
6. Laura Hedges (Western Washington University)
7. Mary Michael Herndon (Western Washington University)

Part II Session Discussant: Rebecca Corran (University of Arizona)


Part III:

1) Author: Heather A. Miller (Georgia State University)
Title: Challenges in applying PAR outside of the classroom: one student's examination

Learning about and conceptualizing Participatory Action Research (PAR) techniques may seem direct and simple enough in the classroom and textbook, but they become a great deal more complicated the moment the student enters the field. After having worked for years in a highly stratified non-profit setting and then entering the field of anthropology, I was at first heartened and captivated by the PAR approach, in particular because of how it contrasted with what I found working for a large non-profit agency. Having now completed a PAR-based field school in rural Peru and my own thesis research in metro Atlanta, Georgia, I feel more versed in the PAR approach, but also even more puzzled. As I now approach the Ph.D. and impending dissertation research, I face these major questions: How can I best use PAR in approaching highly hierarchal settings? How do I truly and fairly integrate myself into some domain of study where my involvement is both needed and welcome? Through this paper, I examine these questions and some of their possible solutions.

2) Author: Hanna Garth (Boston University)
Title: The Etic Attempt: Obstacles and Barriers in Female to Male Trans.
Community Participatory Action Research in New York City
The lack of research in all fields has inspired many to attempt to delve into the issues of transgendered communities all over the United States and the world. Failed attempts, poorly approached studies and what trans communities often deem as “misrepresentative” analysis plague many trans communities, this unstable foundation laid by previous research attempts has manifested in apprehension and hesitancy to participate in further research.

A particular interest in social determinants of health and access to health care in trans communities inspired my interest in a small female to male trans community in New York City. As a non-transgendered identified person, my attempts at accessing this community have had mixed results. Here, I attempt to outline some of the advances and barriers in this PAR project, including how other research projects in the community have impacted this particular venture, as well as how alignments with certain individuals in a hierarchy of power/respect in the community have impacted the project’s outlook.

3) Author: Portia J. Belo (Southern Methodist University)
Title: “But I’m not a doctor”: Challenges in Informant Collaboration in Participatory Action Research in Quito, Ecuador

The effectiveness of the “bottom-up” approach in Participatory Action Research (PAR) is linked to the belief that community participation leads to community empowerment. In this paper, the researcher reflects on some of the challenges in acquiring community participation in her research on disability in Quito, Ecuador. When interviewing teachers, parents, and therapists of disabled children, there was often a reluctance of parents to vocalize their opinions on the care and education of their children. Though parents are the most integral in the care of their children, their legitimacy as “true” educators and therapists is mediated by those with authoritative knowledge. This hierarchical relationship in disability care hinders the collaboration of all stakeholders involved. In order to attain true community participation, a degree of empowerment and authority has to be established with all stakeholders.

Part III Session Discussant: Melissa A. Beske (Tulane University)


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