This week’s Research #OTalk will be hosted by Bev Goodman @OTBev, who is a PhD student and
part-time lecturer at the University of Essex.
I am currently working collaboratively with a group of disabled people as co-researchers to design and carry out a research project. Together we are exploring how disabled people’s participation in sport and physical activity could be evaluated in a more accessible and inclusive way. The project I’m involved with is Participatory Action Research, and it also draws on principles of co-production.
Rather than put a name on a specific method or methodology, this #OTalk is a chance to discuss any
type of research where issues are investigated by the people they most affect. Research is undertaken ‘with’, not ‘to’ or ‘on’. Rather than being a passive participant, co-researchers have control of the research process itself and can be involved in as many parts of this process as they wish, from determining the research questions to choosing methods and determining what counts as data, to analysis and dissemination (Koch and Kralik, 2006) .
Within our project we are drawing on our existing skills, experience and networks to develop our research with the hope of creating beneficial and meaningful change (Koch and Kralik, 2006; Bryant, Coetzee and Pettican, 2016) . This is a type of research that aligns with a community-based practice approach to occupational therapy. It also benefits from a wide range of occupational therapy skills and is congruent with our profession’s focus on meaningful occupation, client-focused practice, action and collaboration (Trentham and Cockburn, 2005; Kramer-Roy, 2015) .
There are many challenges to this approach; it takes time and it can be complex. Everyone involved must reflect on the decision-making process: what is being decided, by who and why (Herr and Anderson, 2015) . It challenges traditional approaches to research and aims to make change, so it is political – which can be both a challenge and a strength.
1) Do you have any experience of participatory research, as a researcher, participant or as a student writing about it?
2) How might the new knowledge produced from participatory research differ from the knowledge produced from other, more dominant and conventional, approaches to research?
3) What can our occupational therapy knowledge and skills bring to participatory research?
4) How might the knowledge produced from participatory research benefit the occupational therapy profession?
5) What are the challenges of participatory forms of research?
Bryant, W., Coetzee, S. and Pettican, A. (2016) ‘Designing Participatory Action Research To Relocate
Margins, Borders And Centres’, in Occupational Therapies Without Borders: Integrating Justice with
Practice. 2nd edn. Elsevier, pp. 73–81.
Herr, K. and Anderson, G. L. (2015) The Action Research Dissertation. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. Koch, T. and Kralik, D. (2006) Participatory Action Research in Health Care. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Kramer-Roy, D. (2015) ‘Using participatory and creative methods to facilitate emancipatory research
with people facing multiple disadvantage: a role for health and care professionals’, Disability and
Society. Routledge, 30(8), pp. 1207–1224. doi: 10.1080/09687599.2015.1090955.
Trentham, B. and Cockburn, L. (2005) ‘Participatory Action Research. Creating New Knowledge and
Opportunities for Occupational Engagement’, in Kronenberg, F., Simo Algado, S., and Pollard, N.
(eds) Occupational Therapy without Borders. Learning from the Spirit of Survivors. Edinburgh :
Elsevier, pp. 440–453.