Brydon-Miller: “Education, Research, and Action: Theory and Methods of Participatory Action Research"

Brydon-Miller, Mary. “Education, Research, and Action: Theory and Methods of Participatory Action Research.” From subjects to subjectivities : a handbook of interpretive and participatory methods. Ed. Deborah Tolman & Mary Brydon-Miller. New York: New York University Press, 2001. Print.



PAR-- political? Hall''s definition: "process of research, education, and action." Distinction between researcher and researched challenged. Many researchers influenced by Paulo Freire.


Practitioners draw from variety of political theories.


Habermas: three categories of process of inquiry "for which a specific connection between logical-methodological rules and knowledge-constitutive interests can be demonstrated" (Habermas 308).


  • empirical-analytical: supports techniccal interests that allow us to establish control over our physical environment. Not the only type of legitimate knowledge.
  • "the practical interests of humankind, expressed through human communication and language"
  • critical knowledge: "born of social action that supports the emancipatory interests of humankind" (liberation; Freirean conscientization)


Rephrase (from Bernstein): "adequate social and political theory must be empirical, interpretive, and critical"


Basic Tenets and Methods of Participatory Action Research


  • focuses on communities and populations that traditionally have been exploited or oppressed
  • works to address both specific concerns of community and fundamental causes of oppresion with goal to achieve positive social change
  • process of research, education, and action to which all participants contribute their unique skills and knowledge and through which all participants learn and are transformed.


Uses standard methods as well as untraditional (e.g., group discussions, community seminars, etc.). In PAR community determine what questions to ask and which methods to use.


Success depends on mutual trust. Figure 6.1 demonstrates Participatory Action Research process.


Collaboration should combine popular education, community-based research, and/or social action (depending on needs of community). ''Final stage one of shared reflection and consolidation of the learning that has taken place, and a reexamination of the political, social, and economic conditions facing the community.'' Role of researcher is fluid.


Participatory Action Research and Psychology


Cites several examples of research, how it was conducted, etc. Interesting note (citing Sloan): "the researcher must take a stance, choosing between conformist pseudo-neutrality and critical engagement in social transformation" (Sloan 41).