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Participatory Action Research (PAR) in Middle School: Opportunities, Constraints, and Key Processes

  • Author(s): Ozer, Emily J.
  • Ritterman, Miranda L.
  • Wanis, Maggie G.
  • et al.
Abstract

Late childhood and early adolescence represent a critical transition in the developmental and academic trajectory of youth, a time in which there is an upsurge in academic disengagement and psychopathology. PAR projects that can promote youth’s sense of meaningful engagement in school and a sense of efficacy and mattering can be particularly powerful given the challenges of this developmental stage. In the present study, we draw on data from our own collaborative implementation of PAR projects in secondary schools to consider two central questions: (1) How do features of middle school settings and the developmental characteristics of the youth promote or inhibit the processes, outcomes, and sustainability of the PAR endeavor? and (2) How can the broad principles and concepts of PAR be effectively translated into specific intervention activities in schools, both within and outside of the classroom? In particular, we discuss a participatory research project conducted with 6th and 7th graders at an urban middle school as a means of highlighting the opportunities, constraints, and lessons learned in our efforts to contribute to the high-quality implementation and evaluation of PAR in diverse urban public schools.

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