PAR Beginners

For me it is really a quest for life, to understand life and to create what I call living knowledge – knowledge which is valid for the people with whom I work and for myself. Marja Liisa Swant

How do we begin

The beginning of a PAR project may be difficult to pinpoint. It could conceivably begin with a tearoom chat about problems being experienced in the community or some particular issue. Whatever the origins of such a project it will begin with a group acknowledging a shared concern. This group may not even be able to define this concern very concretely but the PAR cycle has begun any way. Once we have started we will become aware of the options and processes available, which there are many. That is why there is a three cycle process of: Reflection– Plan – Action and Observation. Each cycle allows us to tailor our process to our needs.


Within PAR there is an opportunity for folk to learn new skills while on the project that  could be applied to other situations. Examples of some of these new skills included collecting and processing information and finding the best way to engage with others to bring about changes to different situations, as well as how to articulate and present ideas. This is the real value of PAR, that what you learn and the information gathered can be used and built upon to increase knowledge and scope for the use of information collected.

Active participant

Here we are only trying to give the reader an overview of what is entailed in carrying out action research and the purposes of carrying out action research projects. The presentation of models and definitions of action research can only give a hint of the flavour of the experience – to digest the nature of action research fully you need to be an active participant.

Emersionact observe-diagram

So basically PAR is.

• Action research is participative and collaborative; it is undertaken by individuals with a common purpose.
• It is situation-based and context specific.
• It develops reflection based on interpretations made by the participants.
• Knowledge is created through action and at the point of application.
• Action research can involve problem solving, if the solution to the problem leads to the improvement of practice.
• In action research findings will emerge as action develops, but these are not conclusive or absolute.
• Action research is a method used for improving practice. It involves action, evaluation, and critical reflection and – based on the evidence gathered – changes in practice are then implemented.

Kemmis and McTaggart (2000: 595) to describe it as participatory research. The authors state that action research involves a spiral of self- reflective cycles of:
• Planning a change.
• Acting and observing the process and consequences of the change.
• Reflecting on these processes and consequences and then replanning.
• Acting and observing.
• Reflecting. • And so on …

W H A T I S A C T I O N R E S E A R C H ? 

It seek both to inform and influence practice. The authors [Reason and Bradbury (2006)] state that action research is a particular orientation and purpose of enquiry rather than a research methodology. They also propose that action research consists of a ‘family of approaches’ that have different orientations, yet reflect the characteristics which seek to ‘involve, empower and improve’ aspects of participants’ social world. A further list of features of action research, put forward by the same authors (2008: 3), states that it:

• is a set of practices that respond to people’s desire to act creatively in the face of practical and often pressing issues in their lives in organizations and communities;
• calls for an engagement with people in collaborative relationships, opening new ‘communicative spaces’ in which dialogue and development can flourish; • draws on many ways of knowing, both in the evidence that is generated in inquiry and its expression in diverse forms of presentation as we share our learning with wider audiences;
• is value oriented, seeking to address issues of significance concerning the flour – ishing of human persons, their communities, and the wider ecology in which we participate;
• is a living, emergent process that cannot be pre-determined but changes and devel – ops as those engaged deepen their understanding of the issues to be addressed and develop their capacity as co-inquirers both individually and collectively