Participatory research as a teaching and learning tool for voluntary sector management students

O'Hadhmaill, Feilim (2011) Participatory research as a teaching and learning tool for voluntary sector management students. [Conference Proceedings]


This paper provides a description and analysis of the incorporation of a participatory research project into the curriculum of the part-time Masters programme in voluntary sector management at UCC. The aim is to promote teaching and learning for the student, on a number of different levels, while at the same time encouraging civic engagement and social responsibility. Participatory Research involves the student working with a community/voluntary sector organisation in developing a research proposal of relevance to that organisation and designing and conducting the research in participation with the organisation. The student is faced with a number of challenges over and above the normal development, design and management of a social science project. Indeed the process may involve a range of group work skills, including facilitation, negotiation, problem solving, capacity building and conflict management. The research process is in many ways part of the 'outcome' as it requires not just an ability to carry out research along social scientific lines but an ability to work with members of a community/voluntary sector organisation and to negotiate with them at each stage of the research process. Ultimately, it is essential that the research process follows social scientific lines but issues around what should be researched, the emphasis on what questions should be asked and how the results will be used, need to include participation and ownership by the community/voluntary sector organisation. The aim is to produce a research report of relevance and use to such an organisation while at the same time providing a dissertation which fulfils the requirements of a social science Master's Degree. This paper explores some of the benefits, challenges and disadvantages of incorporating participatory research into the curriculum both for the management student, the community sector, the University and for teaching and learning in general.

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