Supporting engaged research skill development amongst postgraduate research students

Community Development

Supporting engaged research skill development amongst postgraduate research students

Project synopsis

UCC offers a module on community-based participatory research (CBPR) for postgraduate students in which the students partner with a civil society organisation for a CBL learning experience. The objective of the module is to provide the students with a grounding in the principles, politics and practices of CBPR. The students work with a civil society partner to develop a research proposal consistent with participatory research. Case studies and role-play based on international and national experiences of community-based participatory research illustrate principles discussed.

Westgate Foundation (2016), Before 5 Family Centre (2017), Cork Environmental Forum (2018)

Student researchers meet with the community partner in the community setting up to five times for two to three hour sessions and also participate in classroom based discussions. Through engaging with community partners on real world research issues, students are made aware of the role of research beyond the university’s walls and gain an increased sense of civic responsibility and increased motivation in supporting community partners. For the community partner, dedicated time with student researchers provides a supportive environment to explore topics of importance, helping to build capacity and to exchange expertise across individuals. For the module’s first iteration, UCC partnered with Westgate Foundation, an organisation that provides sheltered housing, day-care and social services for older adults in Ballincollig, Cork. In 2017, a partnership formed with Before 5 Family Centre, located in Churchfield, Cork city, offering nursery, after school services for children, as well as courses for adults. The community partner for 2018 was Cork Environmental Forum, an organisation that works with multiple environmental organisations to respond to challenges and opportunities.

Learning outcomes:

  • Recognise the principles of community-based participatory research and identify strategies for applying these.
  • Outline the key steps involved in developing and sustaining community-based participatory research partnerships with civil society organisations.
  • Synthesize the principles of community-based participatory research and apply in students’ research.
  • Discuss the relevance of research in society and the potential impact of research on individuals, groups, communities and society.
  • Identify common challenges faced by university/ student(s) and civil society organisation partnerships, and recommend strategies and resources for overcoming them.
  • List participatory methods for including the voices of multiple stakeholders in decision-making processes.
  • Develop the capacity of all partners to support and sustain authentic community-based participatory research partnerships.
  • Critique the role of the university in society and civic engagement in Higher Education Institutions.

Westgate Foundation
The links and partnerships are ongoing. Two research questions have been adopted by UCC undergraduate students undertaking final year projects with UCC CARL. A Westgate Foundation service user was a conference delegate at Living Knowledge 2017, in Dublin. She actively participated in conference events and was a presenter at the poster presentation, where a poster illuminating the journey of the CBPR partnership won two 1st place prizes.

Before5 Family Centre
Community researchers were connected with core services such as UCC Plus within the university, as these were important needs that existed for members. A steering group was created to assist the coordinator and her team in managing the centre and sharing responsibility for the centre’s direction and development. The steering group meet monthly and also plan events to stimulate deeper engagement with the centre from the locality. A sub-team of community and UCC researchers (staff and students) are involved in a folklore project. The team aim to capture stories and memories from locals who grew up in the area and translate this into a published booklet to act as a fundraiser and a means of underlining the importance of community centres such as Before 5 Family Centre.

Cork Environmental Forum
The project report that resulted from the CBL experience has been used by Cork Environmental Forum to inform their strategic planning and the identification of key activities to advance as an organisation. Following this period of further exploration and reflection, CEF may choose to connect with UCC, in particular CARL, to potentially explore research questions identified in this phase of the partnership. A poster reflecting the learning from the project was shared at an international conference and won 2nd prize.

Further Details & Assessment:

Students participating in the module to develop a research proposal consistent with participatory research. Students also complete individual reflective research learning journals (maximum 3,000 words). Students must pass the group assignment and the reflective piece independently.


University wide module for PG students: School of Applied Social Studies, Civic Engagement team and Centre for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning

Credit weighting:


Academic Contact:

Dr Ruth Hally

Additional materials: