Dissertation Abstract

Participatory Action Research in Community School Development: Toward a Health-Focused, Community Problem-Solving, Integrative Curriculum.

Publication Number:  AG9427517
Author:  Curry, Reva
School:  University of Pennsylvania
Date:  1994
Pages:  266
Subject:  Education

This dissertation describes and analyzes a participatory action research (PAR) study that I conducted under the auspices of the West Philadelphia Improvement Corps (WEPIC) at the John P. Turner Middle School of West Philadelphia, from February 1991 to January 1993. At the outset, my research involved working collaboratively with four middle-school teachers in the beginning stages of the development of an integrative, community problem-solving, health-focused curriculum for a school-within-a-school. We envisaged the curriculum as a way to help improve the health of the residents of the Turner School's immediate geographic community, viewing it also as a strategy that would be essential to the success of a larger, comprehensive plan to improve the social conditions and quality of life of the Turner neighborhood. Moreover, we saw our work as the creation of a prototype curriculum that might be used to restructure and revitalize the entire middle school curriculum.

As described in this paper, multiple obstacles to developing the curriculum surfaced during the research and development process, interrupting the process and necessitating a careful assessment of those problems prior to further curriculum development. At this critical juncture a different strategy emerged--one that shifted the emphasis of the PAR project from the development of a product (the school-within-a-school curriculum) to the creation and articulation of a process of democratic dialogue and development, involving additional PAR researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and targeted toward surmounting the obstacles we were encountering, both real and imagined.

My study documents and analyzes the key events, decisions, and turning points, as well as the key decision makers, their motives and power, which have brought the Turner-Penn PAR project to its current threshold. This work is replete with implications for urban community school development and PAR research in general.

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