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Participant Action Research and Environmental Education


Author: Yasmin Coromoto Requena Bolívar

Unidad Educativa Nacional de Talentos Deportivos del Estado Barinas, UENTADEBA


Barinas, Venezuela



              The committed participation of the inhabitants in diverse Venezuelan communities is fundamental in the search of solution to environmental problems that they face in the daily life; in the face of this reality, studies based on Participant Action Research were addressed, through a review and documentary analysis of four works related to community participation, carried out in the state of Lara. For this, the following question was asked: ¿What was the achievement in the solution of environmental problems in the communities, reported through the master's degree works oriented under participant action research and presented to Yacambú University in 2011-2013? A qualitative approach is used, approaching the information according to the stages suggested by Arias (2012): Search of sources, initial reading of documents, preparation of the preliminary scheme, data collection, analysis and interpretation of the information, formulation of the final scheme, introduction and conclusions, final report. It begins with the definition of the units of analysis and inquiry of the literature, through theoretical positions, concepts and contributions on: participant action research, participation and environmental education, to culminate with the analysis and interpretation of the information and the conclusions of this investigation. For the collection of the data, the bibliographic records were used with the purpose of organizing the information on the researches consulted, and of summary for the synthesis of the documents. It was concluded that, in the analyzed degree works, the purpose of the IAP was fulfilled, which consisted in the transformation of the problem-situation, which allowed the IAP to become the propitious scenario to promote environmental participation and education not formal.


Keywords: participant research; community participation; environmental education.


Date Received: 23-08-2017

Date Acceptance: 20-11-2017



Investigación Acción Participativa y Educación Ambiental



La participación comprometida de los habitantes en diversas comunidades venezolanas es fundamental en la búsqueda de solución a problemas ambientales que enfrentan en la cotidianidad; ante esta realidad, se abordaron estudios fundamentados en Investigación Acción Participativa, a través de una revisión y análisis documental de cuatro trabajos relacionados con la participación comunitaria, realizados en el estado Lara. Para ello, se formuló la siguiente interrogante: ¿Cuál fue el logro en la solución de problemas ambientales en las comunidades, reportado a través de los trabajos de grado de maestría orientados bajo la investigación acción participativa y presentados ante la Universidad Yacambú en el lapso 2011-2013? Se emplea un enfoque cualitativo, abordando la información según las etapas sugeridas por Arias (2012): Búsqueda de fuentes, lectura inicial de documentos, elaboración del esquema preliminar, recolección de datos, análisis e interpretación de la información, formulación del esquema definitivo, introducción y conclusiones, informe final. Se inicia con la definición de las unidades de análisis e indagación de la literatura, a través de posturas teóricas, conceptos y aportes sobre: investigación acción participativa, participación y educación ambiental, para culminar con el análisis e interpretación de la información y las conclusiones de esta investigación. Para la recolección de los datos se utilizaron las fichas bibliográficas con la finalidad de organizar la información sobre las investigaciones consultadas, y de resumen para la síntesis de los documentos. Se concluyó que, en los trabajos de grado analizados, se cumplió con la finalidad de la IAP que consiste en la transformación de la situación-problema, lo que permitió que la IAP se convirtiera en el escenario propicio para promover la participación y la educación ambiental no formal.


Palabras clave: investigación participativa; participación comunitaria; educación ambiental.



Fecha de Recepción: 23-08-2017

Fecha de Aceptación: 20-11-2017



1. Introduction

At present, evidence of changes in the natural environment can be observed due to anthropic actions, for the satisfaction of the needs of the human being in favor of a better quality of life, but affecting in an alarming way, the interdependence that must exist between him and nature, in addition to compromising the permanence of man on Earth. This impact of the environment is related to the disproportionate population and industrial development generated over time, transforming the environment in a remarkable way, leading to a critical scenario of depletion of natural resources and pollution in all areas.


In this sense, environmental education acquires relevance as an axis of training and awareness raising awareness, as well as in the promotion of ecological values, but the implementation of various actions in collective will be the driving force for attitude change and the consolidation of the aforementioned values, which will promote a pro-environmental behavior consistent with the improvement of living conditions in a healthy and sustainable environment.


This means that environmental education plays a key role in shaping an awareness of ecological knowledge, since through it the necessary knowledge in the citizenry can flow to promote the development of sustainability as such, and Greater awareness aimed at the conservation of the natural heritage.


In this context, participatory action research is a method with which participation and awareness-raising towards the improvement of the quality of life can be fostered, through the execution of collective environmental actions. Therefore, this work is presented that aims to show the results of a documentary research carried out, with the purpose of carrying out a critical review of the experience presented in four intentionally selected investigations.


The investigations were carried out in the state of Lara (Venezuela), between 2011 and 2013, with the particularity that they are degree projects presented before the Yacambú University of the city of Barquisimeto (Lara), within the framework of the Master's Degree in Environmental Education . It is important to point out that the conceptual elements on the Action Research, participation and environmental education are described, in what corresponds to the literature review; Subsequently, the review of the investigations involved in the study is presented; with the purpose of verifying if the IAP, in fact, becomes an appropriate scenario for the promotion of environmental education in the solution of problems; finally the conclusions that emerged in the documentary investigation are incorporated.


2. Literature Review

2.1. Investigation action

Action research is a term coined and developed by Kurt Lewin in several of his investigations. It is a methodological approach that focuses on the encounter and direct contact with people, to achieve a change in a certain situation. In this regard, Pérez (1998), states that is characterized by data processing and improvement of the reality understood by each of the entities involved, being flexible, democratic and open, in addition to using a variety of elements that contribute to the of decisions.


In this sense, all members participate in the improvement of society through research and are involved in lifelong learning through a self-management organization, with a greater approach to the reality of study, which favors the incorporation of all as partners. in their own situations and the search for alternatives to improve it, based on the co-responsibility of all, before the different situations that arise in their environment.


Participatory Action Research is the methodology of social intervention, typical of Community Social Psychology, as proposed by Montenegro (2004): it emphasizes that people affected by social problems must be part of the solution of these, therefore , the design, execution and evaluation of the plans and actions, is made from the dialogue between the co-investigators and the members of the community.


In agreement with the previous approach, Balcázar (2003a), states that the Participatory Action Research (IAP) promotes the participation of the members of the different communities in the search for solutions to their own problems; it also provides a concrete context to involve the actors in the research process in a non-traditional way as agents of change.


2.1.1. Phases of the Action Research

For the research process, Elliot (cited by Sandín, 2003a) proposes the following phases: Diagnosis

        For every process it is very important to carry out the investigation of the situation to study, in order to have knowledge of the reality and identify what should be modified. It is considered important to have knowledge of the situation of the community having as objective the systematic and holistic vision of the environment; analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the community, and systematically organize all the information. Preparation of an Action Plan

        To develop a plan requires the organization, hierarchy of existing problems, by the actors involved, because they are what they should select, propose possible alternatives, and consider how they will be achieved, as well as the possible responsible actors of each activity. In this regard, Balcázar (2003b), believes that this is where participants learn to develop observation, which allows them to identify the causes of their problems and possible solutions. Execution of the Action Plan

In the previous phase, it is possible to establish collectively, different alternatives for the solution of the existing problem, and guided by the objective of the action research that implies the transformation of the real situation; In this phase, each of the proposed activities must be carried out, taking into account the flexibility. In this sense, Balcázar (2003c), states that the participants carry out each of the activities and planned actions, with the resources they have and the support of other guilds, until they solve each one of the problems detected in the diagnosis. Evaluation and Interpretation of the Action Plan

In this phase, the reflection on the action plan is carried out, and each of the activities developed is described in detail, in addition to the review of the results obtained, at the same time what is planned is compared with what was reality was achieved. It is important that each activity to be completed is evaluated by the co-investigators, in order to plan the possible corrective measures that may be necessary.


It is important to note that these phases fulfill a cycle of spiral suggested by Elliot (cited by Sandín, 2003b), which allows the flexibility of the process and the adaptation of each of the phases to the real needs of the community and in attention to the characteristics of the situation, as well as the achievement of the objectives set out in the action plan.


2.2. Community participation

Community participation is a changing and variable process, which is linked to attitudes, decision making and relationships between individuals, which in the words of Bronfman and Gleizer (1994), can be conceived as a way to solve problems of diverse nature, which is self-managed and gives the community self-sufficiency and independence, increasing its level of autonomy.


In this sense, participation is considered as an important and fundamental part for the development of the human being; and a relevant aspect is that it is represented by the union and cooperation of a community in general. According to the United Nations Program for Human Development (1993), participation means that "people intervene closely in the economic, social, cultural and political processes that affect their lives" (p.2).


From the above, it is evident that participation is closely related to the development of the human being, since it starts from its action in all its environment and development in society, with the relevance that generates welfare to the community in the search for solutions to problems of various kinds through the incorporation of its inhabitants.


In Venezuela, participation is considered in the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (2009a), specifically in Article 58, which stipulates it as a right of the social sectors, which implies incorporation into the preparation of proposals, and in the Identification of priorities. In this way, it is necessary that within a community citizens feel free to create, design, execute and evaluate actions that are carried out democratically to ensure sustainable development. In this regard, Gabaldón (2006a), states that only from freedom, citizens have the possibility to build a type of development that presupposes a broad and transparent participation of civil society in the decisions that affect it.


2.3. Environmental education

The global scenario is immersed in environmental conflicts, a fundamental reason for carrying out a training aimed at generating a conservationist conscience and behavior in favor of improving the conditions for life and the preservation of the natural environment. In this sense, it is relevant to highlight Gabaldón (2006b), who believes that: "The identification of environmental problems and how to control them requires a new type of education that through a theoretical and practical judgment of the biotic and physical environment creates interest and love for nature" (p.27).


Hence, the importance of the implementation of environmental education, which according to the Organic Law of the Environment (2006), defines it as a "continuous, interactive and integrating process" that is achieved through the acquisition of knowledge and experiences on the part of the human being, who understands and analyzes them, internalizes them and translates them into favorable behaviors towards the environment, based on ecological values ​​and pro-environmental attitudes that prepare him to participate protagonically in the management of the environment and sustainable development.


Likewise, the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (2009b), in Article 107, establishes that environmental education is mandatory at all levels and modalities of the education system, making reference from the formal and non-formal perspective; encouraging the participation of communities in the struggle to solve their problems.


The objectives of environmental education were defined in the International Seminar on Environmental Education, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, United Nations Environment Program in 1975, stipulating a system of standards and guidelines that should encourage the human being to know everything related to the world, to know how it works, how their relationships are, as well as to be consciously and actively incorporated into the process, in terms of the dynamics of nature and society, to to act according to their needs, and not simply retain information on precise aspects of the environment.  


3. Method

3.1. Design of the investigation

The research was located in a documentary design that according to Arias (2012), is "a process based on the search, recovery, analysis, criticism and interpretation of secondary data" (p.28). It should be noted that secondary data are those obtained and recorded by other researchers in documentary sources: printed, audiovisual or electronic; in this case, these are written documents considered to be non-periodic publications, such as research carried out as a requirement to apply for the Master's degree in Environmental Education at Yacambú University, in Lara state, Venezuela, which were submitted during the period 2011-2013, under the focus of the Participatory Action Research.


3.2. Search of Sources

For the development of this phase, criteria were established that allowed locating the sources in a reliable manner for the selection; These criteria were: (a) Master's Degree in Environmental Education papers submitted to Yacambú University in the 2011-2013 period; (b) Oriented under the Participatory Action Research method and (c) Aimed at community participation in solving problems and based on environmental education.


In the review of sources it was found that 67 undergraduate jobs were presented in the area of ​​Environmental Education at the Yacambú University during the 2011-2013 period, of which seven were oriented under the action research and of these only four were directed to the community participation in solving problems: Hernández (2011a), García (2012a), Borges (2012a) and Goyo (2013a). It should be noted that the bibliographic data of these investigations were collected through files for their respective classification.


3.3. Analysis and interpretation of information

In response to the selection criteria, the documentary analysis of the research mentioned in the previous section was carried out, taking into account as categories the Participatory Action Research with the review of the respective phases that comprise it; community participation and non-formal environmental education, for which an analysis matrix was elaborated that allowed the subsequent interpretation of the information.


It begins with the work of Hernández (2011b), entitled "Participatory environmental actions aimed at improving the quality of life of the inhabitants of the Palo Verde hamlet in the municipality Andrés Eloy Blanco" specifically in the state of Lara, where there were situations that threatened against the quality of the environment and, therefore, the quality of life of its inhabitants, thus motivating the development of research.


Among the situations found by Hernández (2001c), there was the dispersion of solid waste by the community; burning of garbage, inadequate practice common in the courtyards of houses; lack of maintenance of storage tanks for water coming from the springs in the upper zone; problems with the sewage network, which collapsed and some residents let it run freely through the streets; use of biocides in the productive land adjacent to the community, as well as the felling and burning.


It should be noted that the researcher managed to draw up, with the participation of the social actors, an action plan that included training and action activities; Among the training activities, he developed Charlas-Taller, on "Disposal of solid waste, classification, reuse and recycling; "Community participation: Integrating axis for the improvement of the quality of life" and "Rational use of water". Likewise, it carried out several actions with the participation of the residents, such as: Operation cleaning the community, water springs and water intake; reforestation day; ecological murals; information campaign on dengue; elaboration of the project on water; elaboration of ecological paper mills.


It is important to highlight the achievements of Hernández (2011d), through the Participatory Action Research, applying participant observation, in-depth interviews, focus groups and community assemblies, which led to the development of activities guided by the action plan drawn up in the Palo farmhouse. Green, with the participation of the inhabitants and the support of six co-investigators members of the sector:

1.     The sensitization of the inhabitants of the community was achieved through the reflections generated during the planning meetings and the talks.


2.    The incorporation and participation of the inhabitants in the solution of the environmental problems encountered during the diagnosis was achieved.


3.    Cases of dengue and digestive diseases such as diarrhea were reduced, thanks to the awareness of the inhabitants and awareness of the elimination of mosquito breeding sites.


4. The participation of the inhabitants in actions oriented to the conservation of the natural spaces and the maintenance of the different areas is permanently maintained.


Consequently, it can be expressed that in the village a process of social transformation was generated, represented by the motivation to participate in the actions aimed at the benefit in common, contrary to the apathetic attitude and apathy found at the beginning of the investigation; In addition, participation is active and committed, without the pursuit of particular interests, but rather disinterested and cooperative.


On the other hand, García (2012b), conducted his research entitled: "School and community integration in the San Isidro de Sanare neighborhood: An environmental conservation experience" in the jurisdiction of Andrés Eloy Blanco municipality of Lara state. The researcher could observe that in addition to the situation generated by the itinerant market leaving an immeasurable amount of solid waste; there were large clusters of these in the streets of the neighborhood, coupled with the burning of garbage.


Also, visual pollution, caused by graffiti of all kinds, together with foci of sonic pollution caused by vehicles with high-volume musical equipment at any time of night, and finally the inappropriate use of biocides in the surrounding plots. The situation motivated the researcher to develop a participatory action research process that would promote the integration of the community with the Sanivar Bolivarian High School, based in the neighborhood. Talks-Workshop on "Environmental Education" were developed among the training activities; "Legislation and factors of environmental aggression"; "Rational use of water; "Use of biocides" and "Solid waste management".


Regarding the actions carried out with the joint participation of the educational institution involved and of several inhabitants of the San Isidro neighborhood, with the support of six residents of the sector who served as co-researchers, the following are available: Ecological rally; elaboration of billboards and litter bins; literary contest; ecological murals and ecological carnivals. The achievements of these activities with the incorporation of the inhabitants of the neighborhood can be expressed in summary:

1. Through the reflection that was generated by the social actors involved in the research, in the different talks-workshops.


2. From the execution of activities, the inhabitants were incorporated to achieve the participation of several neighbors in a committed manner.


3. The workers of the itinerant market, after the ecological rally and attending the workshop on environmental legislation, showed a change of attitude and when they left, they collected the solid waste generated.


4. The image of the neighborhood changed and is now pleasing to the eyes of its own and visitors, due to the replacement of meaningless graffiti by ecological murals.


5. The participation of the actors in the activities planned by the institution, as well as activities by the communal council oriented towards conservation, is one of the relevant achievements.


When the achievements of the objectives of the action plan are reviewed, it is evident that, through the execution of activities, in the San Isidro neighborhood, the meaning of community participation was reconstructed collectively, aimed at achieving integration between the Liceo Bolivariano Sanare and the community, founded to generate processes of environmental conservation.


In the same context Larense, Borges (2012b), conducted an investigation entitled "Aguedo National Education Unit Felipe Alvarado de Bobare, as a center of community work in the framework of sustainable endogenous development" in the Iribarren municipality. The researcher observed a complex problem for the fulfillment of activities oriented to endogenous development, where the inhabitants of the community could be incorporated, due to the little or null exchange of knowledge between the institution and the community, little will toward change and social transformation, lack of incentive towards innovations for curricular advancement, little presence of experiential dynamics in classroom academic activities; coupled with manifestations of conformism, selfishness, pessimism and individualism.


Faced with this reality, it was proposed to carry out a participatory action research process involving the institution and the community, managing to develop a plan of action structured by the members of the educational community and the local community, made up of four fundamental pillars: awareness in community leadership (information dissemination, radio campaign and billboards); community leadership workshop (school as a center for community work), artisanal and agricultural exports; and cultural, sports and recreational community festival (literary contest, traditional games and student voice). The achievements of this action plan are manifested through:

1. The approach of the educational institution was promoted as a center of community knowledge and tasks; besides a wide opening of spaces for critical reflective analysis with teachers, students, representatives and community leaders, to assume the principles of sustainable endogenous development and the community school.


2. The rapprochement between the local productive sectors and the institution was promoted within the framework of sustainable endogenous development, with the participation of artisanal representatives and goat breeding, fundamental activities for the sustainable endogenous development of the Aguedo Felipe Alvarado parish.


Since endogenous development is a relevant aspect in terms of environmental conservation, the achievements made in the research carried out by Borges (2012c) are an expression of the importance of Participatory Action Research for the consolidation of collective actions with the participation of the school and the community in the solution of problems and the approach to behaviors oriented towards sustainability, which will encourage other community spaces for the improvement of the quality of life.


Finally, we have the research carried out by Goyo (2013b), entitled "Environmental education as a community integrating axis in the improvement of the environmental conditions of the Los Jabillos and Los Mangos communities, Palavecino municipality". This study arises from the researcher's concern for helping the inhabitants of the sectors mentioned to solve the problems they faced, after an invitation to do the Yacambú University to participate in a community support activity.


During the visits, he was able to corroborate situations such as the accumulation of solid waste in the different streets and houses; remains of scrap, brush and trash in the yards and fronts of the houses; presence of a clandestine dump generated by a company close to the sector; burning of garbage, as an option of both communities to disappear solid waste clusters; spill of sewage to the streets of the communities, together with the presence of many stray dogs.


Given this situation and jointly with the inhabitants of the sectors formulated a plan of action structured by talks on: "Solid waste management", "Dengue", "Burning garbage and health risks", "Environmental legislation " In addition to elaboration of ecological murals; rescue of the main road with days of cleaning, weeding, painting fronts of homes; sports and cultural activities. These activities had the participation of numerous members of both communities sharing responsibilities in the common spaces, such as the main road, demonstrating the following achievements:

1. Committed incorporation of the inhabitants of both communities in the solution of their common and particular environmental problems.


2. Change of attitude of the inhabitants oriented towards the reuse of solid waste, as well as the contact with companies for the recycling of products such as plastic, aluminum, other metals, paper and cardboard, as a self-management process for the communal house.


3. Changing the appearance of the communities, keeping the streets free of garbage and the walls with ecological murals, in addition to the reforestation of the main street and other areas of the sector, as well as the absence of solid waste in the streets.


4. Elimination of spillage of sewage, incorporating the missing homes into the sewerage network, through joint communal work with the hydrological company.


5. Projection of activities to surrounding communities in view of the achievements obtained and in pursuit of the same objectives, due to the similarity of environmental problems.


These achievements are evidence of the results of carrying out a participatory action research process for the solution of environmental problems, and how participation, organization, solidarity, cooperation, collaboration and teamwork are encouraged in other communities to improve the conditions of life and assume an environmental behavior aimed at the conservation of the environment.


4. Conclusions

After making a critical review of the research presented in this article, it is derived from it several relevant aspects that give significance to the Participatory Action Research as an appropriate scenario for the promotion of environmental education, through the training activities that take place in the communities to offer important information that allows the management of environmental knowledge among the members of the populations that are intervened with the IAP; On the other hand, the aforementioned training generates the necessary awareness for active and committed participation in activities planned collectively and aimed at solving environmental problems.


What has been described above, verifies what Vio (1998) states, that participatory action research is a social research approach that seeks the full participation of the actors involved in the analysis of their own reality, in order to promote the transformation social for the benefit of the research participants. On the other hand, it is important to point out that in the investigations carried out by Hernández (2011e), García (2012c), Borges (2012d) and Goyo (2013c), several features of the IAP are revealed, among them: the object of Study is decided based on what interests a group, which means that this methodology is applied to real-life situations.


Likewise, the purpose of the IAP was achieved, which consists of transforming the problem-situation that affects the people involved, with people being the main agents of change and to achieve this, it is supported by training activities, which in the cases that were reviewed corresponded to aspects included in the environmental dimension. Finally, in the researches studied it is understood that the contribution of the researchers corresponded in the theoretical and methodological aspects, while the actors involved contributed with their experiences and popular knowledge, this conjugation being what allowed the IAP to become the scenario conducive to promoting participation and non-formal environmental education.


5. References

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Borges, Y. (2013a,b,c,d). Unidad Educativa Nacional Aguedo Felipe Alvarado de Bobare, como centro de quehacer comunitario en el marco del desarrollo endógeno sustentable. Trabajo de Grado de Maestría no publicado. Barquisimeto, Venezuela: Universidad Yacambú.


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García, M. (2012a,b,c). Integración escuela y comunidad en el barrio San Isidro de Sanare: Una experiencia de conservación ambiental. Trabajo de Grado de Maestría no publicado. Barquisimeto, Venezuela: Universidad Yacambú.


Goyo, A. (2013a,b,c). Educación ambiental como eje integrador comunitario en el mejoramiento de las condiciones ambientales de las comunidades Los Jabillos y Los Mangos, municipio Palavecino. Trabajo de Grado de Maestría no publicado. Barquisimeto, Venezuela: Universidad Yacambú.


Hernández, Y. (2011a,b,c,d,e). Acciones participativas ambientalistas orientadas hacia el mejoramiento de la calidad de vida de los habitantes del caserío Palo Verde en el municipio Andrés Eloy Blanco. Trabajo de Grado de Maestría no publicado. Barquisimeto, Venezuela: Universidad Yacambú.


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Yasmin Coromoto Requena Bolívar

e-mail: yasmile_2011@hotmail.com


Born in Venezuela. Professor specialized in Biology (Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador IMPM Barinas). Postgraduate student at the Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador IMPM Barinas. Program: Environment and Development Education. Classroom teacher in the Unidad Educativa Nacional de Talentos Deportivos of the Barinas State.


The content of this manuscript is disseminated under a Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International


- Original Version in Spanish -

DOI: https://doi.org/10.29394/Scientific.issn.2542-2987.2018.