Branching out: Insights about researcher development from participatory action and indigenous approaches to research

Cynthia Stirbys, Pauline Young, Colleen Anne Dell, Janay Wilson, Larry Laliberte, Sherri Pooyak, Shannon Taylor, Randy (Charles) Duncan, David Mykota


Background: This paper shares reflections from participatory action research (PAR) and Indigenous approaches to research (IAR) team members on how they developed both personally and professionally through involvement on two Indigenous-focussed studies. Objectives: Sharing these reflections with the community-engaged scholarship (CES), which includes PAR, and Indigenous research communities is intended to further understanding about the relational role of individuals to themselves and with others in community-university research. Methods: Reflections were gathered from 20 university and community research members on the two studies in the forms of focus groups, interviews and written submissions. Results: Three compatible themes emerged from the participants’ reflections on their development: establishment of respectful relationships, increased cultural understanding, and personal empowerment. To help detail the meaning of these advancements, an Indigenous artist and study team member identified the oak tree as a metaphor representing the strength it took for team members to self-reflect on their beliefs, values, practices and assumptions. The metaphor is applied to present the results. Conclusion: Branching outside the boarders of discipline-specific scholarship, and intersecting two traditions in a unique and culturally rooted way, has contributed meaningful insight on researcher development in community-engaged scholarship.

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