Teaching Methods with Research Cases: Participatory Action Research

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The MethodSpace focus for August is on teaching research methods. We will follow on in September, with a focus on mentoring, supervising, and guiding researchers. You can find the whole series here, including information about the September 12 webinar,”Nurturing the Researchers of Tomorrow.” Register now and find the time in your zone here.

Teaching Methods with Research Cases

Cases can be used in a multitude of ways for teaching the practice of research. While research texts and books offer fundamental principles, and articles discuss research that applies these principles, case studies offer a holistic viewpoint. Cases show how the theoretical and procedural aspects of research design fit together. They discuss what happened in the course of the study, including decision-making and problem-solving strategies used to overcome obstacles.

A Case about Participatory Action Research

The case we’ll explore is:

DeJonckheere, M.,Vaughn, L. M., & Bruck, D. (2017). Youth-led participatory action research: A collaborative methodology for health,education, and social change. SAGE Research Methods Cases. doi:10.4135/9781473956032

Read two previous posts about this case:

Eight-Step Research Case Analysis Process

In a previous MethodSpace post I laid out an eight-step process for teaching with research cases. (See: A Case for Teaching Methods.) Taken together, these steps represent a comprehensive case analysis that could be completed as an individual or group project. Alternatively, one or more steps of the process could be adapted for single assignments or class discussions. The following ideas might spur your imagination about other assignment opportunities that will fit into a course or seminar.

  1. Understand the research approach.
    • Invite students to begin by identifying the research approach, the theoretical frameworks, data collection and analysis methods used in the case. The case by DeJonckheere and colleagues is based on two studies that used a qualitative participatory action research methodology, with a particular focus on youth as research partners.
    • Assign additional reading to help students build an understanding of the approaches used in the case. The case authors provided a list of further readings in addition to the reference list. See the SAGE Research Methods Reading list below for additional sources.
    • Assign a literature search exercise, and ask students to create an annotated bibliography on a prescribed number of sources about participatory action research and/or youth led research.
    • In a discussion or a written assignment, asks students to explain the basic principles of participatory action research.
  2. State the problem.
    • Ask students to identify a problem or obstacle faced by the case author(s) in conducting the research. This case describes the challenges researchers faced in trying to determine an inclusive way to study how to “the ineffective suicide prevention programs that currently exclude the voices of youth experiences” (p. 2).
    • Students can discuss or write about how this (or other identified problems) relate to research design, research site, case author preparation or skills, research approach, or something outside the researcher’s control.
  3. Broaden the inquiry; research the problem.
    • Using resources identified in step 1, students can look for other examples where researchers needed to understand sensitive, private, potentially life-threatening matters related to youth.
    • In discussions or written assignments, students can compare and contrast the ways other researchers have engaged adolescent or other vulnerable participants. Is the problem widespread or limited to the situations portrayed in the case? Does the problem represent larger issues of power and inclusion that other researchers need to understand and be prepared to address?
  4. Offer alternative solutions and approaches to the problem.
    • What other methodologies and methods could DeJonckheere and colleagues have used? Working individually or in teams, encourage students to offer two or more alternative solutions for conducting research about sensitive, private, potentially life-threatening matters related to youth.
  5. Evaluate each alternative.
    • Ask students to describe the key steps for research design and conduct using one or more alternative methodologies and methods, and to consider implications for each alternative.
    • Recommend that they evaluate each alternative in regard to the  researcher’s preparation, skills and roles, characteristics of the target population, sensitivity about the research topic and/or external factors such as research setting or access to participants. Once again, encourage students to utilize course texts and other resources to support their evaluative process.
  6. Offer your best recommendation.
    • Based on evaluations completed in Step 5, offer the best recommendation for DeJonckheere, Vaughn, & Bruck in particular, and more generally for researchers who are studying sensitive topics and youth.
  7. Describe implementation.
    • Summarize the likely result from using an alternative research approach and suggest strategies for overcoming any obstacles.
    • Note any implications for the research design, conduct, and analysis as a whole.
  8. Finalize the case analysis.
    • The final stage of case analysis process could include submission of a paper, a class presentation, or a team demonstration of interview techniques.
    • If members of the class have conducted analyses of different cases, or different problems drawn from the same case, at this stage they can compare and contrast what they discovered and recommended.

SAGE Resources on Participatory Action Research

The SAGE Research Methods platform allows you to create and curate public or private Reading Lists. The instructor can collect resources for students to consult as part of the case analysis, or more advanced students can collect and share the reading lists they assemble in support of this case analysis. Use this list as a place to start! If you don’t have access to a library with SAGE Research Methods, sign up for a free trial.

Learn more about teaching methods and mentoring researchers! Register now for a MethodSpace Live webinar: Nurturing the Researchers of Tomorrow.
Date: September 12
Time: Find the time in your zone here.

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