Participatory Methods: Theory and Practice (IND 5199)

This course is offered through the Civic Participation Project (CPP), and is taught by Professors Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz (AH&E), Laura Smith (CCPJ), and Lalitha Vasudevan (MSTU). Students may register for Spring 2017 semester-long course, or for the Summer 2017 week-long institute version at Teachers College.

Brief description:

The key-note of democracy as a way of life may be expressed, it seems to me, as the necessity for the participation of every mature human being in the formation of the values that regulate the living of men together….The very fact of exclusion from participation is a subtle form of suppression. It gives individuals no opportunity to reflect and decide upon what is good for them. Others who are supposed to be wiser and who in any case have more power decide the question for them and also decide the methods and means by which subjects may arrive at the enjoyment of what is good for them. This form of coercion and suppression is more subtle and more effective than is overt intimidation and restraint. When it is habitual and embodied in social institutions, it seems the normal and natural state of affairs.

John Dewey
Democracy and Educational Administration (1937)

In this quotation, John Dewey – educator, psychologist, philosopher, and social theorist – expressed the interconnected nature of democracy, education, inclusion, participation, and freedom. In so doing, he noted the potential for exclusionary practices to become so deeply embedded within social institutions and practices that they are not seen at all.

How can educators, psychologists, counselors, and other professionals discern the exclusionary practices that are potentially embedded in their own conceptions of knowledge and service? What alternatives exist to these taken-for- granted worldviews and conventions? This course will explore these questions by bridging racial-cultural literacy theory with qualitative, ethnographic, and participatory action research methodologies.

Participatory Methods is designed to address several major themes and aims:

1. To learn the fundamentals of participatory and qualitative approaches to research, inquiry, and knowledge-creation;

to understand this perspective in the context of conventional methodologies

2. To become aware of the cultural values and assumptions that shape the way we define knowledge and expertise as well as accepted ways of communicating them

3. To apply these concepts to the roles and functions of health care professionals, teachers, caregivers, and other service providers: what is help? How do our answers to this question contribute to (or limit) the expansion of democratic participation?

4. To understand the application of these concepts to institutional, organizational, and civic operations and functions.