Home > Creativity, management, Planning, research > Asking good questions vs :”knowing where you want to go” in participatory action research (PAR)

Asking good questions vs :”knowing where you want to go” in participatory action research (PAR)


In the very beginning of a PAR (participatory action research) project, I would draw a distinction between asking good questions and “knowing where you want to go”.  Going into the PAR with a preconceived notion of a certain outcome or of a preferred method of proceeding, particularly as a researcher, can lead to advocacy. It may conflict with statements to the participants that they have ownership of the process and outcomes.

I find it very hard in my organization (an Army college) to bite my tongue when I already think I know the problem and solution in an AR inquiry.  I have to force myself to journal my position and insights, and let the group find their own way and only near the end, if at all, offer my own opinion. It’s kind of a new role for me but one that has been already paying dividends in the projects I have already undertaken (related to selection and design of curriculum)

It is normal for outside consultants to come in to an organization with expertise and a method, to diagnose, and thent o offer a solution, and leave. The organization’s members would feel like “objects of study” rather than the co-researchers, which is an ideal value of all AR, and especially PAR.

Hopefully the group can generate its own ideas of problem scoping statements,  the values and procedures the group will follow in the research, and the measures of performance and that these will arise from the research and reflection they conduct.

In my own studies of “wicked problems” PAR seems to be a suitable approachm because wicked problems cannot even be defined until a tentative solution has been offered (it’s like working backwards to the problem statement). Now, not every problem in PAR is going to be a wicked problem, but the idea of being open to discovery and letting the group participants sort it out seems essential.

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