Creating Participatory Research: Lesson activities

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

Chapter 1

Activity 1: Working in pairs and making notes (for themselves), ask the students to reflect on how the social context they live in affects their views about the research process. Get them to consider how other social contexts may affect worldviews in different ways for example, how might a young person growing up in a South African township or a very rich American approach research in terms of the types of questions that they would ask, and the judgements that they may make during the research process. What is impacting upon and influencing their approaches?  How is their view of research influenced from a social perspective here? It will be helpful for them to discuss ideas about communities, power structures and relationships as part of this task.  Get the students to report back to the whole class and facilitate critical discussion around their ideas.

Activity 2: Working in small groups (3-4 students), use a selection of media articles about any topics of interest to the course you are delivering (newspapers, magazines etc) get the students to identify how they could approach a participatory research project in one of these areas. They can reflect upon the type of approach that might work based upon the tradition and context (see table 1.2), and the decisions that they made during the conversation. Ask them to present their findings on flip-chart paper for general discussion.

Activity 3: Show students the following clip via YouTube (you will need to limit this time-wise by showing them the first 10 minutes or so) ‘Community-Based Participatory Research in Detroit, Michigan - Professor Barbara Israel’. Get them to discuss the clip and then suggest ideas for a local CBPR project. During the wider discussion of their ideas challenge them to consider how their approach and ideas fits with the principles of participatory research (see box 1.2 in chapter 1).

Chapter 2

Activity 1: Show students the following clip on YouTube ‘What is Co-production?’.  Get the students to discuss the clip and then suggest ideas for a co-produced research project with a local community (use a research project that you have been involved with [if possible] as you can then tell them exactly what it was like, and how you made decisions – even if this was not co-produced). Give the students feedback on their suggested approach and get them to reflect upon how their approach fits with the principles of co-produced outlined in chapter 2, box 2.3).

Activity 2: Select a journal article that describes a co-produced approach to research and send it to students to read in advance of their attendance in class/seminar group.  Allocate the students into groups of 3-4 and ask them to analyse the article (making notes on flip chart paper for group feedback).  Get them to consider

  1. Which principles of co-production are evident in the research approach used? See chapter 2, box 2.3.
  2. What difficulties/issues are described and how do these relate to the challenges outlined in the broader literature? See chapter 2, box 2.4.
  3. Finally, what learning/reflection is discussed by the authors and how might this be useful for those trying to co-produce in reality?


Activity 3:
Ask students in advance of the class/seminar to search for some examples of co-production guides and toolkits (there are lots available on the internet).  Ask students to work in pairs to compare the toolkits that they found, drawing out similarities and differences during the activity.  In the overall feedback/discussion of this activity compile a list of all of the points that students discussed – what are the main similarities and differences across all of the toolkits that were discussed?

Chapter 3

Activity 1: Working in small groups of 3-4 students, ask the students to look at some research scenarios that you will provide. Include a range of outcomes: impact, experiences, uptake, engagement, reach and access, divided amongst the groups.  Ask the students to think of research questions for each scenario from the point of view of stakeholders in policy, practice, research and participants. Discuss whether these produce conflicting or complementary questions. How would or should any disagreements between stakeholders be resolved? Do the students have any experience of resolving disagreements in groups that they can share?

Activity 2: Using an example of one of your own research projects, or drawing on the published literature, ask the students to discuss in groups how the research could be made more participatory? Are changes to the overall research design needed, or could the outcome be made more participatory by including other groups of participants? Who should be involved in making these decisions?

Activity 3: List some of the challenges associated with participatory research designs. Ask the students to work in pairs or small groups to rank these challenges in order of (a) importance – how much impact they might have on the research design?, and (b) difficulty – how difficult would they be to overcome? Give each group a specific challenge - can they suggest ways to overcome any of them?

Chapter 4

Activity 1:  Who needs research ethics? Take the challenge. You can ask students to complete this free online quiz, available from the Open University to get them to reflect upon their own knowledge about basic research ethical requirements. 

They can do this quiz during class time as an individual activity to be followed by your facilitation of a debrief/discussion session or as a facilitated group task in which you encourage debate and conversation about ethics within the whole group as you all complete the quiz together.  

Activity 2: Find an example participatory research study and use that as a basis for this activity.  See Shallwani, S. and Mohammed, S. (2007) Community-Based Participatory Research. A Training Manual for Community-Based Researchers for some brief examples (page 10). 

Students should work in small groups (2-3 students), to reflect upon the ethics of your chosen case study.  Ask them to consider the case study from three directions:

  1. The point of view of the participant – e.g. how would you feel if that was you?
  2. The stance of the researcher/powerful actor in each case – what is the researchers goal, and how might the researcher see the situation differently to the participants?
  3. In relation to research ethics guidelines/principles – how does the study adhere to these, or are there some problems with the study in relation to ethical principles?


Activity 3:
Show students the following short film called ‘Forum Theatre: Participatory ethics through participatory theatre’. This is 8 minutes long.  Then ask the students to feedback about their views on the ethics of participatory theatre:

  1. Would they be comfortable working in this way and if not, does this raise ethical issues?
  2. In what contexts would this approach work well, ethically?
  3. Are there some situations where using this type of approach would be unethical?


Chapter 5

Activity 1: Working in small groups, ask the students to list as many methods of data collection as they can think of. You might want to provide some headings to start them off (e.g. quantitative, qualitative, creative etc.). Once they have a list, ask them to discuss which of these methods could be participatory and which (if any) couldn’t be. Why/ why not?

Activity 2: Working in small groups, provide the students with a questionnaire or an interview schedule (drawing on your own research or published literature) and ask them to critique it in terms of its accessibility to all. Who would struggle to understand or use it? Why? What changes (to content, structure or format) could be made to make it more accessible? Would this compromise the rigour of the research? Does that matter, to whom does it matter, and how much does it matter?

Activity 3: Working in small groups, ask the students to select a vulnerable group, and design a participatory workshop for training peer researchers from this group. How long should the workshop be? Where should it be? What elements need to be in place? Etc. Ask the groups to share their workshop design with the whole class and give feedback.

Chapter 6

Activity 1: Working in pairs and making notes (for themselves), ask the students to reflect on how the typology of analysis approaches presented on slide 19, compares to one of the examples provided on slides 11-13. Ensure that all of the examples provided on the slides are covered by different groups of students. Get the students to report back to the whole class, drawing upon one example at a time, exploring if the pairs see the examples in different ways, and if they locate them in the same place on the typology. Facilitate critical discussion around their ideas.

Activity 2: Working in small groups (3-4 students), use an example of one of your own research projects or if you prefer draw upon a published article. Ask the students to identify how they could approach this research in a participatory way particularly paying attention to the analysis phase of the research.  They can reflect upon the challenges that they expect to experience, drawing upon those discussed in slides 14-16 as a basis to start this activity. Ask them to present their findings on flip-chart paper for general discussion.

Activity 3: Show students some excerpts from the following film via YouTube - Robert Chambers - 'Participatory approaches to data gathering and analysis'. This is a full 2 hour workshop, so you will need to be selective.  Ask the students to explore the delivery of the workshop, as a training approach. Style?  Usefulness? If they were running a similar training session, how might they approach it?

Chapter 7

Activity 1: Working in pairs and making notes (for themselves), ask the students to reflect on how the social context they live in/work in might affect the dissemination of any research project findings. How is research generally perceived (positively or negatively?).  Are community members likely to want to learn about research and to be involved in studies as well as dissemination?  What would good dissemination look like in their chosen community – format, style? Get the students to report back to the whole class and facilitate critical discussion around their ideas, encouraging them to think about different community contexts, power dynamics and levels of education.

Activity 2: Working in small groups (3-4 students), use a selection of media articles about any topics of interest to the course you are delivering (newspapers, magazines etc) get the students to identify how they could approach participatory dissemination related to the chosen topic. Students can reflect upon the type of approach that might work based upon the topic (some will need to be more sensitively managed) as well as the format that they think is most useful (see table 7.3).  Ask them to present their findings on flip-chart paper for general discussion.

Activity 3: Show students the following clip via YouTube ‘Disseminating CBPR findings’. Get them to discuss the clip and discuss their views about this researchers approach to CBPR disseminations. During the discussion get the students to think about this model fits with the principles of participatory research and if they see it as ethical.

Chapter 8

Activity 1: Pre-nups - Ask the students to work in pairs to consider briefly what a rich celebrity might want to include in a pre-nup when getting married.   Then divide the class into 2 groups, ask half of them to think about what a university would like to include in an agreement to protect their interests, and the other half to think about it from the perspective of a community group.

For more background, see: Gust, Susan & Jordan, Catherine. (2007). The Community Impact Statement: A Prenuptial Agreement for Community-Campus Partnerships. 11.

Activity 2: Stereotypes – ask students to work in pairs/small groups to list common stereotypes about academics (lecturers, professors) and students and to search for corresponding images.  Share as a class and discuss where such stereotypes come from, the damage they can do and how perceptions can be changed e.g. the absent-minded/eccentric professor with untamed grey hair.  This stereotype could make people reluctant to work with an academic they see as strange and unapproachable and the expectations are that the professor is a man.  Academics having an ongoing presence in the community can help to change stereotypes (see chapter 9 for more on this).

Activity 3: Use examples from your own research projects, the literature or the scenarios provided in the chapter to get the students to consider the physical, emotional, ethical and professional risks of fieldwork.  The students can work in small groups to list the risks and how they would minimise them. 

Include an example of research working with a highly vulnerable group e.g. homeless people (see reflection box) and ask the class to reflect on what emotional impact the work could have on them and how they would deal with that.

Chapter 9

Activity 1: Show this short film about the community campus partnership ‘CommUNIty’ at Leeds Beckett University.

Ask students to discuss in pairs what the motivations were for Leeds Beckett University to set up a CCP, what factors supported its creation and how they could get one off the ground at their own institution.

Activity 2: Divide the group into two halves, asking one to brainstorm the potential benefits of Community Campus Partnerships for the university and the other to compile a list of the potential benefits for the community (in large groups, still have half considering one and half the other, but they can work in 2s or 3s before sharing with the whole class).  Report back to the class and then see how many were covered in slide 10. Did they come up with additional ones?  Is there any disagreement between students about the benefits involved? Does anyone raise any potential disadvantages of the work at this stage?

Activity 3: Use a selection of leaflets promoting different charities/an extra slide with the logos and names of several local charities e.g. a hospice, a centre for people with learning disabilities.  Ask students to look up the websites for the charities to see what their aims/mission statements are and to discuss in pairs/small groups how the university could support them in those aims e.g. through Marketing projects for fundraising, research on aspects of learning disability, placements for physiotherapy students.  Then ask them to consider the ways both the charity and the university would benefit from the partnership.

Chapter 10

Activity 1: Working in pairs and making notes (for themselves), ask the students to reflect on how the typology of analysis approaches presented on slide 8 (derived from Banks et al 2017), compares to the case studies outlined on slides 14-16. Ensure that all of the examples provided on the slides are covered by different groups of students. Get the students to report back to the whole class, drawing upon one example at a time, exploring if the pairs see the examples in different ways, and if they locate them in the same place on the typology. Facilitate critical discussion around their ideas.

Activity 2: Working in small groups (3-4 students), use an example of one of your own research projects or if you prefer draw upon a published article. Ask the students to identify how they could develop impact in a participatory way in the example provided. What would their approach be?  What types of impact would they be aiming to achieve (again refer to slide 8 as a starting point). Ask the students to list the challenges that they expect to experience, drawing upon those discussed in slides 17 and 18 as a basis to start this activity. Ask them to present their findings on flip-chart paper for general discussion.

Activity 3: Show students the following film via YouTube – Maria Mintzer, ‘How kids can help design cities’.

Ask the students to make notes whilst they are watching and to consider how involvement in this project led to impact.  How does the approach used reflect the principles of participatory research?  How was the impact from this, different because of the approach taken? Would they have done anything differently?