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The Practice of Participatory Action Research (PAR)

Participatory Action Research (PAR) is an approach to inquiry that values the knowledge and lived experience of communities affected by the problem being researched, and seeks to place greater control over question definition, research design, knowledge-building, and problem-solving in the hands of community members. In this sense, PAR intends to transform existing unequal power relationships between marginalized groups and those traditionally considered the “expert” researchers and decision-makers.

This course will explore practical, methodological and theoretical questions and dilemmas at the heart of partnerships between applied social scientists and communities. The course will introduce students to:

• The histories and imperatives of PAR and Action Research in planning, the social sciences, popular education, and movements for social justice/liberation.
• Debates regarding qualitative research and the validity of PAR as social science – including questions of validity, context-(in)dependence, generalizability, and alternative measures of research credibility.
• Diverse methodological considerations for collaborative research with community partners. Emphasis will be on ways of co-creating knowledge that value narrative, voice, and marginalized experiences and perspectives.
• Practical, political, and ethical questions in the practice of PAR.

The course will be structured to include seminar discussions, in-class reflective activities, guest speakers, and written assignments. In addition to building a foundational understanding of PAR’s practical and theoretical considerations, students will have the opportunity to:

• Build skills for reflective practice as a crucial capacity for generative listening, co-creation, and interrogating positionality
• Engage with community and academic PAR practitioners involved in real-world research collaborations
• Develop their own theories of planning or research practice for work oriented toward social justice and co-creation with communities

Please Note: In Spring 2017 the Practice of PAR will be offered as a FULL-SEMESTER, 12-CREDIT Course.