Our first adventure as CAMINA is to begin participatory action research around contemporary critical education in Scotland.
But what is Participatory Action Research?
At it's most basic, PAR is an approach towards enquiry for communities, groups, organisations, networks etc.,:
The term research really just refers to the process of how we identify and find out about what we want to change and explore how we’re going to change it. Ideally, research should happen before, during and after action because PAR is a cyclical process.
By Action we are talking about what we are going to do to make change (though importantly, the research can be action as well).
Participatory means that all who have a stake in the issue are invited into the process to identify the questions and explore the answers and solutions (not just ‘academics’).
If we are to frame PAR as a set of questions, it might look as follows:
We'd be interested to hear your thoughts on whether PAR is a language that makes sense to you. Indeed 'language' is a theme we will return to again and again...
So what will our PAR project look like in practice? Find out more here.
If you'd like to read more about PAR check out this site and this toolkit.
For those with experience of critical or popular education, the principles that underpin the PAR approach will sound very familiar. Indeed it is our view that PAR is another way of framing many of the processes critical education promotes, including praxis; - "reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed" (Freire, 1970), and conscienticisation; - the "process in which men, not as recipients, but as knowing subjects achieve a deepening awareness both of the socio-cultural reality which shapes their lives and of their capacity to transform reality” (Freire, 1970; 27). This is not surprising given that PAR has its roots in global critical pedagogy with Freire (alongside many other actors), playing an active role in the development of PAR in international contexts.
For us it feels appropriate to use an approach so closely linked to critical education to interrogate and make change in the field.
But why not use the language of critical pedagogy to do this?
There are a number of reasons why we find the language of PAR useful.
1) it is easily understandable to those unfamiliar with critical education - and easily translatable
2) it fits with current language used in the wider community learning and development context
3) it draws on a range of traditions (not only critical pedagogy), including; action research as a professional development process, the concept of living theory developed by Jack Whitehead, as well as creative design processes.