Course Based Action Research Model

There are four theoretical assumptions that underlie our course-based research model:

First, our feminist theoretical grounding translates into a commitment to conducting research for and with our community participants, as opposed to conducting research on them. This feminist-informed research is intended to empower women and challenge inequalities of all kinds. It focuses on topics vital to the community members, gives voice to their experiences, and provides possible directions toward community change. By using our feminist framework, we hope to ensure that research participants’ priorities informed the project, rather than our own assumptions of what their priorities might or should be.

Second, we value an asset-based model that emphasizes research participants’ and communities’ strengths and resiliencies rather than the more pervasive deficit model. In the latter, culturally oppressed, marginalized individuals’ experiences are often viewed as deficient in comparison to their more “privileged” counterparts. This does not mean that we fail to explore the complex challenges surrounding research participants’ lives. Rather, we are committed to contextualizing these challenges and examining the social, economic, cultural, and historic forces that embed the participants’ lives.

Third, to ensure that the action research projects are truly meaningful endeavors for the community organizations with which we collaborate, we have chosen to undertake only those projects that have been initiated by community organizations themselves.

Finally, we are committed to an interactive model in which faculty, students, and community organizations participate from beginning to end of each research project. This means that we all collaborate fully in the various stages of research, including determining project design and scope, navigating emergent research focus, reviewing data that are collected and analyzed, shaping the written report, and staging public events at its completion.

With these theoretical assumptions as our basic scaffolding, we then design each participatory action research course so that we can provide ample flexibility to create a unique structure. Our goals are to educate students, expand their knowledge base, and challenge them to explore feminist research methodologies, while engaging with community organizations to meet vital research needs. For example, for several years we included a new focus on a participatory action research project in a lower division undergraduate course that was taught every year. The research project was offered as one of several research options from which students could choose. We also framed an entire undergraduate seminar around an action research project. Students have chosen among varied assignments, all tied to the research. We also created a new course for upper division undergraduate and graduate students to learn the qualitative research methodology of conducting life narrative research. Participating students are engaged in activist research with community-based organizations in direct application of these methodological approaches.

To view a full version of a book chapter discussing this methodology, click below.