Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor


Second Advisor

Copyright © 2014 Elizabeth Willingham Ferrell

Third Advisor

Doctor of Education (EdD)


In this dissertation, I present three frameworks through which participatory action research (PAR) can be investigated. PAR is a cyclical process through which members of a community identify a problem, create a solution that is customized to their setting, implement their solution, and collect data to assess their improvement plan's effectiveness and to guide modifications for subsequent iterations. In each of three articles, I focus on one framework, its contributing theories, and present findings from my nine month study which took place at a high school on Chicago's northwest side. Each article and framework has its own guiding research questions, which allowed me to investigate the effects of facilitating a PAR group at Smith High School through three distinct lenses: northern hemispheric PAR, focused on organizational learning and the improvement of systems and procedures; southern hemispheric PAR, rooted in autonomy, empowerment, and giving voice to marginalized populations; and a reflective process that charges participants to look inward, at their immediate context, and at the larger landscape of public education. In separate yet corresponding articles, I hope to contribute to the literature on the potential of PAR as a vehicle for school improvement.

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