Critical participatory action research (CPAR) is a form of critical, collective inquiry that provides youth and adults with opportunities to identify concerns that impact their lives, to gather and analyze data about these issues, and to take collective action to create more just communities. Described by Michele Fine & Maria Torre (2019) as, “research rooted in politics, power, participation, and a deep appreciation of knowledge, created in conditions of oppression and mobilized for social action,” CPAR projects are rooted in the teachings of popular education, democratic participation, and critical/feminist theories. Coming together around a common concern, CPAR researchers strive to name and explore the different ways in which positionality, context, and power impact their findings. There is a growing body of evidence that schools, community-based organizations, educators, and adolescents themselves are nurtured by benefit from this form of inquiry.

This course will provide students with an introduction to CPAR in school and community settings by immersing students in the process itself.  We will begin by looking at theoretical and empirical arguments about the importance of critical, collective, intergenerational inquiry, as well as different frameworks for engaging in this work. We will then explore three broad contexts in which intergenerational collective inquiry often occurs: (1) school-based reform initiatives; (2) arts-based social justice initiatives; and (3) community-based intergenerational organizing. Finally, we will engage in the CPAR process, partnering with community-based folx to design and implement a critically oriented research study.

S501Y and S502Y is an eight-credit, yearlong course. All students will partner with a community-based organization or group of community members to complete a critical participatory action research project. This class prioritizes rigorous self-reflection as a pedagogical practice; students should expect to explore their own identities and ways of knowing both individually and in community. Similarly, this course centers on critically oriented, community-based research methods; students should be interested in explicitly engaging a power analysis in their work. 

Permission of instructor required. Enrollment is limited to 40. Students enrolled at HGSE given preference. All interested students should attend course previews and/or contact the instructor to obtain an application for the course. (Students will be notified within 24 hours of the application deadline about their enrollment status.) Students who enroll in the course will be expected to engage in a yearlong research project in collaboration with community- or school-based youth and/or adult partners who are interested in studying an aspect of equity/inequity within their community. Projects will likely be pre-identified (by the teaching team) and community-based partners will become semi-regular members of our classroom community.