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Using participatory action research to support pupil participation in improving a sense of community in a secondary school

Stringer, Phil and Traill, Maria and Culhane, Lee (2010) Using participatory action research to support pupil participation in improving a sense of community in a secondary school.

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In 2007 specific guidance was issued to schools about the duty of staff to promote community cohesion (DCSF, 2007). An aspect of this concerns the extent to which pupils experience a sense of belonging to their school. ‘Belonging’ can be understood through the construct of a psychological sense of community. Research by McMillan and Chavis (1986) has identified four major components of sense of community, along with an index that can be used to survey this. This index, the Sense of Community Index- 2 (Chavis et al. 2008), was revised and administered to pupils in a large secondary school. Aims- The research described in this report and supported by the Children’s Workforce Development Council, identified a representative group of volunteer pupils to investigate the outcomes of a survey about the sense of community in the school. Data were collected using participatory action research (PAR). The research aimed to learn about the use of PAR itself. Method- Following an initial recruitment meeting, eight data collection meetings were held, with the number of pupils attending ranging from zero to 14, with a typical attendance of four pupils. Recognising that pupils might need support to become action researchers, materials were prepared outlining the steps involved in action research. The co-researchers were also supported by discussion and a variety of forms to assist with their planning and record keeping. The intention was that the pupil co-researchers would gather information and ideas from their own tutor groups and return to a weekly research group that the lead researchers would facilitate. The group would use the tools its members brought to make an action plan to improve the sense of community in the school. Findings- The research group demonstrated a good understanding of sense of community and a commitment to investigating it further, in particular identifying how to improve aspects of ‘influence’, ‘membership’, and ‘fulfilment of needs’. At the same time, difficulties were encountered trying to maintain momentum with the pupils, leading to a decision to terminate this stage of the research and to refocus it. Ultimately, a significant outcome of this research concerns the circumstances that might allow PAR to flourish.

Item Type: Document from Web
Publisher: Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC)
Additional Information:
Depositing User: Editor (1)
Date Deposited: 26 May 2011 12:55
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2012 18:21
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