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Elucidating the Power in Empowerment and the Participation in Participatory Action Research: A Story About Research Team and Elementary School Change

  • Author(s): Dworski-Riggs, Deanne
  • Langhout, Regina Day
  • et al.
Abstract

Community psychologists are increasingly using Participatory Action Research (PAR) as a way to promote social justice by creating conditions that foster empowerment. Yet, little attention has been paid to the differences between the power structure that PAR advocates and the local community power structures. This paper seeks to evaluate the level of participation in a PAR project for multiple stakeholder groups, determine how PAR was adjusted to better fit community norms, and whether our research team was able to facilitate the emergence of PAR by adopting an approach that was relevant to the existing power relations. We conclude that power differences should not be seen as roadblocks to participation, but rather as moments of opportunity for the researchers to refine their methods and for the community and the community psychologist to challenge existing power structures.

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