The complexities of participatory action research and the problems of power, identity and influence

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Hawkins, KA in 2015, 'The complexities of participatory action research and the problems of power, identity and influence', Educational Action Research, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 464-478.

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This article highlights the complexity of participatory action research (PAR) in that the study outlined was carried out with and by, as opposed to on, participants. The project was contextualised in two prior-to-school settings in Australia, with the early childhood professionals and, to some extent, the preschoolers involved in this PAR project seen as co-researchers. This article explores the author’s journey to PAR, which she considered a socially just mode of inquiry. However, it is not without its complexities and challenges. This article makes transparent these complexities and explores issues of ‘power’, identity and influence in collaborative research. Questions often reflected upon by researchers are re-visited in this article: What theoretical underpinnings align with the investigation? Why undertake such a demanding research design as PAR? What does this research design involve? Where does the university researcher fit? How does a PAR team ‘work’ when there are so many different personalities involved? What are the challenges that are faced by participatory action researchers and how might these be overcome? While these challenges are not new to PAR researchers, the solutions and discussion put forward in this article may generate further reflection and debate.

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