Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Susan R. Boser, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Daniel A. Heckert, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Betsy Crane, Ph.D.


This dissertation explored the meaning of power and voice through a participatory action research (PAR) project. The setting for the research was an Early Head Start program located in rural Western Pennsylvania. In this dissertation I explored whether and in what ways the principles of PAR contributed to impacting the strength of local voice in relevant dialogue and how those who participated in the PAR project perceived that their voice made a contribution. I also addressed the interconnections and tensions that emerged between PAR and the IRB as I experienced them through this dissertation. Critical issues explored included the dynamics of power in relationships along with structural and institutional forces that emerged in the course of this dissertation. The research approach for this dissertation was qualitative inquiry using ethnography to observe a PAR project that equitably involved all partners in the research process. Qualitative data collected throughout the duration of this PAR project provided rich insights into the co-researchers efforts to strengthen their voice within their own program and community. The findings are presented in two sections. The first section presents three local constituent groups perspectives of their voice in Early Head Start prior to the initiation of the PAR project. The second section presents their experiences of the project, reflections on voice, any changes perceived and perspectives on what aspects of the PAR project contributed to their experiences. Each constituent group demonstrates distinct and different perspectives that impacted this study. The findings from this PAR research suggest that the principles of PAR, as implemented in this project, contributed to strengthening the voices of co-researchers during this process. The analysis also highlights the limitations of this PAR project when all stakeholders were not at the table due to ethical differences between traditional research requirements of the IRB and the collaborative approach of PAR.