Evaluating PAR projects appears problematic! It depends on who is evaluating and what they perceive to be important. In addition, the objectives identified at the start of a PAR project may have been substantially altered over time and so it may really only be possible to evaluate the process – in other words the degree of participation in the research process, the level of awareness of an issue of concern to the group, the enhancing of capabilities of a group to act collectively and their perceived impact of the actions they have taken to improve their situation. Evaluating PAR’s impact on social change is also difficult – social change as a term is often loosely used to highlight individual transformation associated with the PAR process or more broadly with a specific change in society – for example a government amending a policy.
Evaluating the process in terms of participation and action, however, may in fact be the easy part. Evaluating the research component as both a method and in terms of the development of theory often exposes fundamental researcher and evaluator differences around science and knowledge. How do notions of research validity fit in this context – is Lincoln and Guba’s approach (emphasis on credibility, fittingness, auditability, confirmability) an appropriate alternative? Some PAR researchers rely solely on the participants’ supportive views as sufficient evidence but if others are to learn from the process then the “Did it work?”, “How did it work?”, “What might be useful for others?” type questions may require more critical analysis even if it is recognized that evaluation is laden with problems.
June 12th 2008.
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