American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 46, Issue 1–2, pp 152–166 | Cite as

Participatory Action Research (PAR) in Middle School: Opportunities, Constraints, and Key Processes

  • Emily J. Ozer
  • Miranda L. Ritterman
  • Maggie G. Wanis
Original Paper


Late childhood and early adolescence represent a critical transition in the developmental and academic trajectory of youth, a time in which there is an upsurge in academic disengagement and psychopathology. PAR projects that can promote youth’s sense of meaningful engagement in school and a sense of efficacy and mattering can be particularly powerful given the challenges of this developmental stage. In the present study, we draw on data from our own collaborative implementation of PAR projects in secondary schools to consider two central questions: (1) How do features of middle school settings and the developmental characteristics of the youth promote or inhibit the processes, outcomes, and sustainability of the PAR endeavor? and (2) How can the broad principles and concepts of PAR be effectively translated into specific intervention activities in schools, both within and outside of the classroom? In particular, we discuss a participatory research project conducted with 6th and 7th graders at an urban middle school as a means of highlighting the opportunities, constraints, and lessons learned in our efforts to contribute to the high-quality implementation and evaluation of PAR in diverse urban public schools.


Participatory action research Middle school Children Adolescents 



This research was supported by a William T. Grant Scholars’ Award to the first author, and by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Center as part of the Center of Excellence for Youth Violence Prevention (Center for Culture, Immigration and Youth Violence Prevention at UC-Berkeley). The authors express appreciation to Thomas Cook, Tom Weisner, Meredith Minkler, Lawrence Green, and Marc Zimmerman for their consultation; Elizabeth Hubbard, Marieka Schotland, Sarah Jones, and Carmelo Sgarlato for collaboration with the research, and Jeremy Cantor and Jessica Camacho for their assistance in data collection.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Authors 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily J. Ozer
    • 1
  • Miranda L. Ritterman
    • 2
  • Maggie G. Wanis
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Community Health and Human DevelopmentUniversity of California at Berkeley School of Public HealthBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Division of EpidemiologyUniversity of California at Berkeley School of Public HealthBerkeleyUSA

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