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Community-Based Researching: Research Methods

The toolkit presents a general framework, following which will enable efficient implementation of development programs. The basis of the framework is the concept of “knowledge exchange”, where the guidelines and the practical approaches in the toolkit are directed toward outlining the significance of the concept for the development program. The toolkit provides a detailed methodology, which conceptualizes the principles of learning into a shared process of development. Additionally, the toolkit provides a model for decision-makers, which will enable them to assess community proposals, in addition to providing a formal list of requirements that should be met, in order for the project to be considered by the donor or the support agency.

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The basis of the theoretical foundation of the framework is mainly related to learning theories, in which several specific factors of adults’ learning processes are outlined. The factors include curiosity, experience, setting familiarity, serendipity, focus on identified objectives, and the inclusion of all community members in the experience. The main processes in the community participation include principles of iteration, where the main steps in the process, i.e. observation/reflection, learning, deciding/planning, and acting, are repeated in cyclical nature. The foundation of the requirements of community proposals has several elements, common to scientific research and investigation, such as problem statement, methodology, results analysis, etc.

The contribution to knowledge by the toolkit is mainly related to the emphasis on the learning process as a foundation for community development. In that regard, it can be stated that the whole approach is taken in the toolkit merely consists of formalizing the basic principles of learning as well as turning them into a shared experience. The questions that can be posed in that matter can be related to the area of responses to any unpredictable outcomes that might occur during stages of the exchange processes, e.g. community visits. In that regard, the factor of flexibility, outlined in the toolkit, might have a certain framework for a response, which might be in the form of general guidelines or recommendations.

Personally, it can be stated that despite having a formal process for research, the processes are largely situational. Starting from the proposal, which has established stages, e.g. problem statement, objectives, assumption and risks, and including the process design, where the implementation of the stages in practices might result in unexpected outcomes, such as the differences between communities, their geographic locations, etc. Thus, it can be stated that the proposal stage should have a formulation that will cover these aspects.

The main idea of the article is to outline the process of integrating research into a community development plan. The article presents a case study of the partnership between the city of Worcester, Massachusetts, and the participants of Worcester Community Project Center (WCPC), namely undergraduate students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Important elements of the project, which led to the development of a GIS-based decision tool, were the educational process of the student during the project, and the involvement of the community in the process of development.

The theoretical contribution of the article can be seen in demonstrating the steps and the processes of the project-based learning approach and the implemented research methodologies in the project. The core of the project-based learning lies on several elements that can be outlined as follows:

  • Project-based degree requirements.
  • The Global Perspective Program.
  • The WCPC.
  • ID 2050 –a prerequisite of the projects.

Accordingly, the practice of the research process during the development of the project, each of which is related to a particular concept of the course, has several key elements. Such elements include conducting an extensive literature review and gathering qualitative data, the usage of technology as a quantitative data collection tool, involving the community at the same time, problem identification, and the development of measurement tools.

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The knowledge presented in the article is mainly related to the way project-based learning turn theory into practice. In that regard, it can be stated that the steps taken during the development of the project present a real-life scenario that reflects a field-based setting. Accordingly, such an approach allows identifying key aspects during the project, which in the present case were related to the identification of criteria sets, and validation through community involvement.

The key issues that I could identify are related to the applicability of the WPI approach to fields other than community development projects. Namely, such an aspect can be seen through the absence of an established framework for community involvement. In that regard, the scope of the project and the involvement of the city of Worcester might have made the project peculiar to be used as an example of community-based research.

The second chapter from Research Methods for Community Change by Stoecker describes the participatory approaches to research, which were called by Stoecker the Goose approach. Their several approaches are outlined in the chapter, all of which are related to project-based research. The chapter outlines the common elements of all participatory approaches, which are focusing on being useful, employing diverse methods, and emphasizing collaboration.

The theoretical foundation of the participatory approach can be seen in the distinguishing elements of these approaches. In that regard, the main steps are similar to all researches, i.e. problem statement, design methods, data collection, data analysis, and results. The distinction is in linking all these steps to a local context. For example, group meetings and interviews for problem identification, visiting volunteer organizations for data collection, etc. A significant portion of the description of participatory approaches is devoted to building the relationship with the community. In that regard, each party, i.e. the researcher and the community has their own set of objectives and tasks to fulfill.

One of the key issues in the chapter is concerned with adapting the participatory approach to the specific need of the community in a specific situation. In that sense, it can be stated that each participatory research becomes individualized according to specific needs, e.g. educational, action researches, etc, with each being distinguished merely by two criteria, cooperation or conflict. Another impotent issue raised in the chapter is related to bias, which despite being outlined by the author, was never approached in terms of providing recommendations on overcoming such issues.

The overall impression is generally positive of the approach taken by the author to describe participatory approaches in research. Nevertheless, it can be stated that due to the nature of the narration, the issue can be considered as an opinion-based, rather than a scholarly framework. On the one hand, the benefits of such an approach can be seen in that community-related issues are generally abstract, and thus, they require explanation, rather than definitions. On the other hand, such an approach does not clearly establish the differences of participatory approaches, other than being close to the community that you research.

The title of the chapter, “Head and Hand Together”, outlines the main message of the chapter, which is closing the gap between research and practice in project-based researches. The author outlines the main dilemmas contributing to the existence of such gaps, such as differences in perspective between researchers and practitioners, the isolation of research from actual application in training, and omitting the implications of the research at its first stages. Additionally, the chapter introduces and describes the cycle of the project-based research, outlining each of its main components.

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The main theoretical contribution of the chapter comes in outlining the project model and the presentation of the tool that assesses the placement of the participant within the project. In the first case, it can be seen the cycle model of diagnosing, prescribe implement and evaluate, are unique in that it takes a cyclical form, which can be seen as a characteristic of the community projects, while additionally, the model outlines the role of practitioners and researches at each stage. The main principle of assigning each role is the enforcement of collaboration, i.e. bringing the head and hand together.

The most important points in the article can be seen in emphasizing the importance of each part of the project-based research. In that regard, several elements were not obvious at first sight, e.g. the role of researchers at the implementation stage. Nevertheless, the chapter provided several examples that show the potential implementation of research at the stage of research implementation. Additionally, the chapter dealt with the issue of pre-research questions, in which the link between the community and the research is established. In that regard, such an element is complementary to the area of community-based researches, in terms of ordering the steps of the research process.

I think that the chapter succeeded in closing the gap between the “head and the hand” in the project-based researches. Although the main concept is largely simple, i.e. collaboration, the main emphasis is dividing the efforts equally, with each party having its roles and responsibilities.

This chapter’s main purpose is to outline the process that will answer the question “what should be done” after a particular situation was diagnosed in project-based researches. The process of answering such a question is eliminated in one of the steps in the project-based research cycle, prescription. The chapter provided an extensive overview of the differences in prescriptions in service and policy areas. Accordingly, a list of steps was provided, which will help to identify an available alternatives to choose a solution for the problem.

The main concept around which the chapter focuses is the step that most researchers called a literature review. In the context of this chapter, the main goal is not to indicate the process, but rather how to establish the criteria, based on which the alternatives and options will be identified. Among the methods proposed as criteria for selection are the best practices standards, existing research criteria, developing from theory, using community characteristics, engaging stakeholders, etc. Accordingly, with the alternatives identified the methods of selection might involve such methods as order criteria, e.g. bottom-line priority, cost-benefit analysis, or surveys.

The significance of the knowledge provided in this chapter can be seen in relating the methods of alternatives identification and their selection as a general framework, applicable to any research project. In that regard, the prescription process can be paralleled to stages of the research such as identification of research problem and formulating research questions. In that regard, rather than randomly selecting the interventions to measure, a set of criteria can be developed, based on the recommendations provided in this chapter. Accordingly, the key questions that might arise are the applicability of the concepts provided in the chapter to areas other than services and policies.

Personally, I can state that the author largely succeed with the approach he chose to outline the main purpose of each chapter, i.e. using a personal story. In that regard, the author narrowed the gap between the provided information and its implementation. In that regard, the author also predicts the potential pitfalls that might arise during any of the stages that he describes, indicating the potential solutions in such cases, e.g. being attached to a single solution, having a preferred solution, etc.

The second appendix in Stoecker’s book is devoted to one of the essential elements of any research, i.e. ethics and ethical concerns. The author outlined the main differences between ethics and their significance in project-based researches and academic researches. Accordingly, these differences are better outlined in the provided exception, in which as the author states, “the principles are violated”, which is researches involving the investigation of targets.

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There is no distinct theoretical framework for the ethical concerns in project-based research. In that regard, the only attempt to formulate the ethical standards for participatory researches is the one developed at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Accordingly, the basis of distinguishing project-based researches from academic researches is the closeness of the researchers to research subjects, which puts a greater responsibility on such standards.

The significance of the provided knowledge can be assessed based on the principle of exceptions, i.e. the elements unique to the project-based research, and which are outlined through specific cases. In that regard, the principle of interpretation of the general-purpose might work well in cases, which will not be appropriate in academic researches. It should be mentioned, as stated by the author, that such a principle might not be always possible.

The key issues that might be raised in the appendix are related to establishing the criteria, which will help to set the ethical principles in the research. In that regard, many problems and solutions are not apparent, specifically in gray areas, where there is no right or wrong. The latter puts a great responsibility on the researcher, working within the community.

It can be stated that the ethical aspect outlined by the author serves merely complementary purposes, rather than being a general focus in project-based researches. In that regard, putting this section in the appendixes is explainable. On the other hand, the author provides illustrative examples of the peculiarity of ethics in project-based researches, which can be considered as the major contribution of this section.

The main purpose of the article is in providing the findings of a literature review concerning the perceived role of communities by educational institutions in service-learning literature. The article distinguishes between two roles of the community in that matter, the passive perspective, in which the community is merely a beneficiary, and the collaborative perspective, emphasizing collaboration and mutuality. The findings show that the beneficiary approach focuses little on the outcomes of service-learning, where the shift toward the collaborative approach might serve communities better.

The main concept taken in the analysis was investigating the theoretical perspectives in the following aspects:

  • Service-learning definition
  • Campus and project description
  • Motivation for involvement in service
  • Effects of service-learning

As a comparison, the article took special focus colleges and universities (SFCU) as a contrast, in which the collaborative approach was identified. Additionally, based on the analysis of SFCUs the author established a framework for moving from the beneficiary approach toward the collaborative approach, which consists of connecting through commonalities, blurring the boundaries campuses and communities, consideration of the position, history and power of all the participants involved, encouraging reciprocal assessment, and rethinking service missions.

The main knowledge gained from the article can be summarized in the comparative chart that presents the differences between the collaborative and the beneficiary approaches. In that regard, the article has succeeded in drawing the line between the process of doing something for the community and the process of reaching established objectives.

The questions that might arise are related to the perspective of the community, which the author outlined as insufficiently covered in the literature. Accordingly, outlining the importance of such a perspective, the steps given for changing the service-learning model do not show how such perspective will be measured.

It can be stated that the article was found beneficial, in terms of linking learning to communities beyond the learning process. In that regard, there is a rationale for not only serving the community but also for these efforts to be leading to an established point. The latter can be considered as the main point of the author, which is making community-based initiatives serving academic and practical purposes at the same time.

Works Cited

Koelle, Noel Oettle & Bettina. “Capitalising on Local Knowledge – a Toolkit for the Preparation, Implementation and Evaluation of Community-to-Community Knowledge and Learning Exchanges”. 2003. The World Bank. The World Bank Group. Web.

Krueger, Rob, Fabio Carrera, and Jason Farmer. “Creating Tools for Deliberative Community Planning through Interdisciplinary Research and Community Engagement ” Scholarship in Action: Applied Research and Community Change (2006): 51-61 pp.

Stoecker, Randy. “Appendix B: Research Ethics.” Research Methods for Community Change: A Project-Based Approach. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005. 271 p. Print.

“The Goose Approach to Research.” Research Methods for Community Change: A Project-Based Approach. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005. 271 p. Print.

“Head and Hand Together: A Project-Based Research Model.” Research Methods for Community Change: A Project-Based Approach. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005. 271 p. Print.

“Prescribing Researching Options.” Research Methods for Community Change: A Project-Based Approach. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005. 271 p. Print.

Ward, Kelly, and Lisa Wolf-Wendel. “Community-Centered Service Learning: Moving from Doing for to Doing With.” American Behavioral Scientist 43 5 (2000): 767-80. Print.

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