The participatory action research method is one of the many methods used in qualitative research. Action research sees a lot of use in areas that have to do with people – namely psychological, sociological, and educational studies. The method is popular in these areas due to its circular nature, which allows adapting and coming up with new ways of solving the problem, should the implemented one prove to be ineffective (Babbie, 2016). The participatory action research method has several definitions. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the provided definitions to formulate a personal working definition for the method and apply it to three examples in human and social services scenarios.
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The action research method is a paradigm, which allows the participants to analyze their problems and come up with ways of solving them, with the researcher serving the role of enabler and analyst in every given scenario. The method is comprised of five essential steps, which are (“Action research”, 2016):
- Identification of the problem
- Planning phase
- Acting according to plan
- Data collection and analysis
- Reflection and sharing the results
Should the results prove unfavorable, the process is repeated. Such a paradigm has no defined end, meaning that it could be implemented over and over for overall improvement. The definition outlined above will be used for the three examples presented in this paper.
The first example of an action research method could be within a social support organization. These organizations are frequently tasked with distributing material and financial aid to support people with low income. Often, social aid is aimed to deal with the consequences of poverty, but not with the causes. Action research could be used to formulate a program that would provide enablers for the poor to generate their income, rather than promote handouts. The benefits from the successful implementation of such programs are obvious – if the poor were able to generate more income on their own and develop financial independence, they would not need social aid to stay afloat. On the other hand, poverty comes hand in hand with psychological problems and inhibitions – not everyone would be able to follow with the program, even with all the tools provided by the organization.
Action research methods can also be applied in a classroom setting. Traditional educational methods of solving different problems include presenting a problem to the class, then showing how it is solved, and later making the students apply the same method to solve similar problems. Instead, the students could be tasked with creating their ways of solving problems, with minimal instructions given by the teacher. This method will help the students develop their individuality and independence. If the students are assembled in groups, it will promote team cooperation in solving difficult tasks. However, this method will significantly slow down the working process – coming out with innovative paths and shifting through strategies that do not work is a time-consuming process. Also, the groups would not be equal – the progress and efficiency of the method will vary between them.
As these two examples show, the action research method has the potential to provide great results both for the researchers and the participants. However, it also has several drawbacks that have to be accounted for during the planning phase of any particular research.
Action research in education: Methods & examples. (2016). Web.
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Babbie, E. (2016). The basics of social research (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage.