Participatory Action Research
Participatory research methods are geared towards planning and conducting the research process with those people whose life-world and meaningful actions are under study. Consequently, this means that the aim of the inquiry and the research questions develop out of the convergence of two perspectives—that of science and practice. In the best case, both sides benefit from the research process.
Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to research in communities that emphasizes participation as a right and action. It seeks to understand the world by trying to change it, collaboratively and following reflection. PAR emphasizes collective inquiry and experimentation grounded in experience and social history. We are applying the same to the situation of vulnerable children to grow them into responsible citizens.
An All-Inclusive Curriculum
The Trivandrum Don Bosco Nivas is perhaps Trivandrum’s first care home to have a curriculum framework for educators working in early education and care settings with children from age five to 18. It identifies shared values and beliefs and contributes to consistency of practice across different learning settings. The Society promotes professional dialogue within and between settings and highlights the crucial role early childhood educators play in establishing strong foundations for children’s current wellbeing, future learning and life success.
The thought of developing a curriculum for all the children in various disciplines (both academic and non academic) at Don Bosco Nivas was raised by the most unexpected voices: the children themselves. The curriculum is an amalgamation of diverse facets such as academic subjects, arts and crafts, farming techniques etc. We could make these thoughts into a reality, only through the result of painstaking research and evaluation technique called the Participatory Action Research.
This process will take time. It is not a one-off experience, but an ongoing professional process of reflection and renewal.
The main aim of PAR and its process is to enable the children, along with care administrators and researchers, with the process of developing capacity and skills to analyze their situation and initiate appropriate measures to transform their situation and sustain further. In order to achieve this we have created a team called focus group formed by children, care administrators, management and the researcher.
The researcher arranges one on one meeting, group meeting, observation etc with the focus group on the identified issues. With their support and suggestions we have implemented some of the changes in the center. Personal meeting and group discussion with the team helped to identify their issues particularly and generally. Also the meeting with the management has made a common platform for the focus group to feel free and express their issues.
As a research module, PAR is already being carried out in 10 YaR centres of South India with a view to making them more child-directed.
Fundamental Principles of Participatory Research
As the community that involved in the research are at a weaker position, it is very important to involve in the process with an unbiased and democratic outlook. Every research has a set of rules or principles that it follows. When it comes to PAR, there are a few as well:-
· Democracy as a precondition for participatory research
Unbiased and democratic outlook, where everyone are considered equal; both children and the researchers
· The need for a "safe space"
The perfect environment alone can create an incredible opportunity for the children to open up in front of the researchers
· Proper definition of "the community" participating
The children should have the basic cognitive ability to understand the questions and involve in the process.
· Different degrees of participation
Participation can be of various kinds; at times it can be questioning, and other times it may be just a casual point made on the subject
Features of PAR
The key elements and feature of the PAR process can be as follows:-
• It focuses on bringing change, actively engaging all people within a community to work towards this change.
• It is unique to a particular context as it revolves around unique needs within a particular group of people.
• It emphasises teamwork and active collaboration, where researchers and participants work together to analyse a problem situation and generate actions to solve the problem.
• It is an interactive process involving actions and constant reflection during the process.
• It creates awareness among participants about their current situation and the need to take action to create change.
The Change Maker
The participative method works on a premise that issues are best solved when there is an open and genuine dialogue and negotiation between all individuals related to the issue. In contrast to the normal mode wherein the adults (or formators) offer answers to the children (or formees), the participative mode empowers the child/formee to find his or her own solution. It provides space, time and a level ground for everyone, especially the child/formee, to participate in decision-making in matters related to its own well-being. This rests on the conviction that everyone, even a child, is capable of decision-making and that needs to be respected. The end result of PAR is a change in the attitudes of those in leadership roles.