Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module SOCI43715: Participatory Action Research

Department: Sociology

SOCI43715: Participatory Action Research

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To enable students to develop understanding and skills in the theory and practice of participatory action research (PAR).


  • The module will cover history and origins, key values, ethical/political issues, theorising and critiquing PAR, working with partner organisations to influence change, and participatory approaches to research design, process, analysis, dissemination and implementation. The module itself will be participatory, using small co-inquiry groups to focus on specific questions and evaluate learning. Topics covered will include:
  • History and development of PAR, including links with action research and other emancipatory approaches;
  • Theories of participation, social change and community development;
  • The participatory paradigm - values, principles, approaches;
  • Feminist, critical, anti-colonial stances;
  • Advantages and limitations of PAR, especially for students;
  • Ethical and political issues in the PAR process;
  • Practical issues - developing trust and partnerships;
  • Perspectives of community organisations on Community-University research partnerships;
  • Examples of methods – e.g. co-inquiry & dialogical methods, river of life, photovoice, digital story-telling, participatory statistics, participatory theatre, etc.;
  • Participatory analysis and interpretation of data; co-creating/authoring findings;
  • Creating and evidencing impact together – the nature of social action, methods for change;
  • Settings and themes: some case studies, e.g. PAR in international development contexts, PAR with young people, women, people with learning disabilities, older people, faith communities, sport groups, policy-makers, virtual communities.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Upon successful completion of this module, student will have demonstrated:
  • Knowledge of the history, development and principles of PAR as a research paradigm.
  • Critical understanding of the concept and theories of participation and varieties of participatory research.
  • Critical understanding of the concept and theories of social action and its link with participatory research.
  • Critical understanding of the uses, advantages and limitations of PAR compared with other approaches to research.
  • Knowledge and awareness of ethical and political challenges in PAR, particularly the use of power in community-university partnership working, and strategies for handling these.
  • Knowledge of a range of methods suitable for use in PAR.
  • Understanding of the impacts that PAR may have, and processes for creating and capturing these.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Upon successful completion of this module, student will ahve demonstrated:
  • Ability to draw up an ethical framework for conducting a PAR project.
  • Ability to work in a group to co-design a PAR project.
  • Ability to use a selection of participatory methods for data collection and analysis.
  • Ability to identify and reflect on ethical issues in PAR.
  • Ability to reflect on own role in a group, and how power is deployed and roles assigned.
Key Skills:
  • Upon successful completion of this module, student will ahve demonstrated:
  • Ability to work in a group.
  • Ability to facilitate participation in group settings.
  • Ability to plan, design and make agreements in relation to collaborative projects.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Summative assessment: One written assignment of 3000 words.
  • Formative Assessment: Group presentations of a hypothetical PAR design, with group feedback on content and presentation.
  • Teaching Methods and Contact Hours:
  • Method (Lectures/Seminars Workshops etc) - Short lectures/presentations, group exercises and discussions, co-inquiry groups.
  • Contact Hours: 20.
  • Lectures offer an overview of key issues and debates, drawing on relevant literature, and helping to develop theoretical understanding and knowledge.
  • Work in co-inquiry group, use of group exercises and the formative assignment contribute to the learning outcomes by giving students experience of group work, co-designing a participatory research project, giving the opportunity to reflect on their own contributions, use of power, ethical issues and giving and receiving feedback.
  • The essay encourages students to learn about the nature of PAR, to engage with critiques and approaches in the literature and to apply theory to practice.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Workshop including lectures, co-inquiry group work, group exercises 1 once 3 x 7 hours 21
Preparation and Reading 129
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written assignment 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Group presentations of a hypothetical PAR design.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University