Despite serving almost half of the U.S. undergraduate students, community colleges and their constituents are consistently marginalized in the research favoring external university experts to conduct research about them and on them. To counteract these top down, disempowering research practices, we piloted a Participatory Action Research Assistantship Program (PARAP). A PARAP is a modified version of a research assistantship program that is grounded in an anti-oppressive, participatory action research practice, creating change on many levels. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of practical and methodological steps to implement a PARAP at a community college including forming a team, minimizing the power differential, building on strengths, learning new skills, and focusing the research on the perceptions and experiences of constituents. We include our own experience as an example of how to implement a successful PARAP, in addition to, exploring the limitations of the developing method. Lastly, we advocate for others to implement their own PARAP, build on our work, and publicize their research to encourage a shift in the culture and research practices with community colleges.


Community College, Participatory Action Research; Research Assistantship

Author Bio(s)

Mia Ocean is an Assistant Professor of Graduate Social Work at West Chester University with campuses in both West Chester and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She conducts qualitative, anti-oppressive research with community college students, employees, and stakeholders. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: mocean@wcupa.edu.

Kellie Tigertail has studied at the University of Miami and Palm Beach State College. She has also worked as an advocate in many capacities with a focus on social justice and challenging dominant, oppressive paradigms.

James Keller is an alumnus from Palm Beach State College where he earned a Certificate in Human Services, a Certificate in Addiction Studies, an Associate in Science Degree in Human Services, and an Associate in Arts Degree. Recently, he completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at Florida Atlantic University.

Kathleen “Kathy” Woods has earned a number of certificates and degrees at Palm Beach State College, including a Certificate in Human Services, a Certificate in Addiction Studies, and an Associate in Science Degree in Human Services. She is currently in her last semester of her Associate in Arts degree in Pre-Social Work and she plans to transfer to a local university to continue her education. In addition to her studies, her work at the college’s counseling center, and her motorcycle riding, she also cares for her two grandchildren.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.