A type of research that deviates from traditional research that we’ve focused on throughout the semester is called participatory action research (PAR). This type of research is a branch of social change research and aims to benefit the community that is being studied, whereas other research methods may fall short of actively creating change. How does this process differ from traditional methods that we are used to seeing? PAR uses a hands-on approach that collectively involves both the researchers and members of a community. In other words, community members work alongside researchers through the process of research, education, and action. Everyone is contributing their perspectives, skills, and knowledge to a common goal. As a result, both parties emerge transformed and new knowledge has been acquired (Brydon-Miller, 1997).
A typical community that is studied using the PAR method is usually an oppressed or exploited population. PAR is intended to help these communities by identifying concerns of the community and transforming these issues into positive social change (Brydon-Miller, 1997). PAR may also be used to develop effective prevention programs that can be applied at a larger-scale. I found an example for the latter, which demonstrates how this research methodology can bring benefits to a community, and may be applied elsewhere.
Our nation is currently facing a drug epidemic. A way to combat this issue is to implement drug prevention programs in schools across the nation. In some states, it has become mandatory protocol to create a drug prevention curriculum. Gosin, Dustman, Drapeau, & Harthun (2003) conducted a study using PAR methodology to create a school drug prevention program for students in the southwestern United States. The reasons for using PAR in this particular situation included that community ownership was contributory for program effectiveness, and the most successful prevention programs were those “in which the culture and learning styles of the recipients are reflected” (Gosin et al., 2003, p. 364).
Throughout the process, researchers conducted focus groups to get feedback from teachers on how to implement ideas into lessons that would be included in the curriculum. Students would then evaluate these lessons and provide feedback. Additionally, students were involved in creating a logo for the program and producing educational videos about drug prevention.
Overall, the work from all parties involved produced a viable drug prevention curriculum. The researchers contributed their academic knowledge and evaluation processes, whereas the teachers and students (the community) served as experts on their community culture and specific needs (Gosin et al., 2003, p. 377). This study demonstrated the effectiveness of the unique features of the PAR model, and its potential for successfully creating prevention programs for other scenarios.
Brydon-Miller, M. (1997). Participatory action research: Psychology and social change. Journal of Social Issues, 53(4), 657-666. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1111/0022-4537.00042
Gosin, M. N., Dustman, P. A., Drapeau, A. E., & Harthun, M. L. (2003). Participatory action research: Creating an effective prevention curriculum for adolescents in the southwestern US. Health Education Research, 18(3), 363-379. doi:10.1093/her/cyf026