Participatory Action Research and Artful Inquiry: An Applied Learning Workshop

Ryton Gardens
3 June 10am-1pm. Please bring something to share for lunch afterwards.

Facilitated by Colin Anderson, Flora Gathorne-Hardy and Miche Fabre Lewin

This workshop will involve a tangible process of designing a participatory action research (PAR) project on an issue of common concern. We will use artful inquiry and other participatory approaches to imagine a PAR project that asks: What are the main issues of concern for PhD students working at CAWR and how can student experience be improved? PAR generally starts with an issue of immediate practical concern (in this case improving working conditions for PhD students). However, we already identified some of the wider issues, related to power institutional structures, that lie behind these issues at the People’s Knowledge meeting on 19 May. We will therefore examine how PAR is a powerful tool to make sense of how experience, practice and everyday lives of participants are shaped within a wider political context. This PAR process will therefore involve a process of inquiry that works towards improving conditions and practices of students by better understanding the wider context that both enables and constrains PhD students. Thus, what social, political and cultural structures exist within the university and beyond that shape the experiences and power (or powerlessness) of students? PAR also recognizes that different inquirers (PhD students in this case) come from different positions. The experiences of PhD students may be diverse and uneven which can often result from the gendered, class-based, cultural and ethnic backgrounds of participants. Ultimately, PAR is meant to be a political and liberatory process of creating and mobilising knowledge to improve the conditions and capacity of participants. Please note, that there is no expectation that PhD students (or anyone else) will carryout the PAR project we design in this workshop, unless of course there is a desire to do so.

Please RSVP by emailing both Colin and Mina. For those who can’t make it in person, we can try to involve you via Skype.


  1. Paulo Freire’s seminal book on critical pedagogy has been a fundemental inspiration for emanicipatory and critical forms of Participatory Action Research. Focus on Chapter 3 (pp. 87-125) of: Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.
  2. This article provides food for thought around locating the personal experiences of mental illness in the academy (focusing on early career reserachers) within the wider context of the neoliberal academy: Maclean, K. (2016). Sanity, “madness,” and the academy. The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe canadien. doi:10.1111/cag.12264
  3. This article is related to the previous one, but provides critical race analysis of the dehumanizing cultural experience in the everyday lives of black and lantina/o doctoral students. The article is meant to prompt thinking about how ‘student experience’ is shaped by the positionality of students and their relationship to wider cultural, political and economic structures of privelege and power.  Gildersleeve, R. E., Croom, N. N., & Vasquez, P. L. (2011). “Am I going crazy?!”: A Critical Race Analysis of Doctoral Education. Equity & Excellence in Education, 44(1), 93-114. doi:10.1080/10665684.2011.539472
  4. The website of chris seeley, where people can see the origins of her work on artful inquiry within the fields of action research, organisational change and her own arts practice.
  5. Expressions of Energy artcile co-written by chris seeley and peter reason exploring artful inquiry as a form of action research. of Energy.pdf