Building Leadership and Collaboration Skills
by Doing Participatory Action Research

Diane Erickson, University Honors College

Diane Erickson Poster

Context of the Inquiry

HNRS 209 Participatory Action Research, Spring 2010

  • An elective course approved by UAB Spring, 2008.
  • Students must apply, interview and be invited to join the course.
  • Undergraduate students are introduced to the basics of participatory action research using an active learning model that requires students work together as a research team over the entire semester.

The guiding research question for Spring 2010 is: “What do first year students need to know about opportunities for campus engagement, advisement, and enrollment policies? And, what is the best way to communicate this information to them?”

Focus of the Inquiry

I incorporated a number of classroom activities into this course that align with the methods and values that were introduced in the Ford Foundation Alaska Native Ways of Teaching and Learning Faculty Intensive. The learning activities are intended to build communication, teamwork, and leadership skills.

  • In participatory action research (PAR), the process is equally if not more important than the research outcomes. PAR, done well, develops the capacity of individuals to lead positive change efforts in their community.
  • Alaska Native Ways of Teaching and Learning support the development of the whole person and, most importantly, his/her development in relation to the community.

My Classroom Inquiry Hypothesis: As a result of incorporating these teaching activities into the course, I believe that students who complete the course this spring will report that:

  • Their leadership, teamwork, and communication skills were developed and enhanced;
  • The experiential, hands-on nature of the class deepened their learning;
  • “Good instructions” facilitated their learning;
  • The classroom atmosphere was conducive to deeper learning;
  • They formed more positive attitudes regarding their responsibility and role in creating a positive and healthy community;
  • They formed more positive attitudes regarding the benefits of diversity and inclusion in community decision making.

Course Design and Implementation

Enduring Understandings: The learning activities outlined above are intended to support students’ acquisition of several enduring understandings. Enduring understandings “go beyond discrete facts or skills to focus on larger concepts, principles, or processes. As such, they are applicable to new situations within or beyond the subject” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 10). Four enduring understandings serve as the foundation for the instructional design of HNRS 209:

 “Research is a systematic and rigorous inquiry that enables people to understand problematic events or phenomena” (Stringer, 2007, p.4).

 “Action research is a participatory process that involves all those who have a stake in the issue engaging is systematic inquiry into the issue to be investigated (p. 6).

 “Action research . . . . is based on the proposition that generalized solutions may not fit particular contexts or groups of people and that the purpose of inquiry is to find an appropriate solution for the particular dynamics at work in a local situation” (p. 5).

 Leadership is “a relational and ethical process of people together attempting to accomplish positive change” (Komives, Lucas, & McMahon, 2007, p. 13).

A chart is attached that outlines the Alaska Native Teaching and Learning Methods and Values incorporated into the course and the corresponding classroom activities.  


This inquiry is currently in progress. Data to document how the identified instructional strategies supported student learning as hypothesized is being collected from:  

Course Debriefing and Feedback Worksheet

IDEA Supplemental Questions

Observation notes

Collection of class artifacts, e.g. Classroom rules of conduct

Pre/post attitude survey

Guided self assessment

Learning journals and weekly reflections


Course Artifacts


This inquiry is currently in progress. My reflections will be added after I have analyzed the course data and summarized my findings.


Course Artifacts

Faculty Contact

Diane Erickson, Ed.D.
Assistant Professor

University Honors College


Telephone: 907-786-4874