News & Events

DSH - Masterclass: Action research as an empowering method in urban research

28 June 2018 , from 9.30h till 16h Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering Campus, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussesls

In this master class, participants will explore the theoretical and practical basis of conducting action research with vulnerable populations in underprivileged urban areas. Master class lecturer Haifa Tlili she will share her experience with doing action research, by presenting her own research, the challenges she faced and the results she obtained. Furthermore, she invites PhD-students to present their own research and will offer her advice on integrating an action research-design in it.

Name(s) of the VUB organizer(s)

Academic field(s) in which the activity is situated

Urban studies – gender & diversity studies – sport & society –  sociology – anthropology – ethnography – qualitative research

Relevance for the VUB PhD community

The masterclass provides an introduction into the method of action research, a participatory form of research intent on involving those concerned by the research not just as ‘objects of study’, but as active participants. Action research is an interesting method for those researchers aiming to develop effective strategies for intervention on the basis of their research. The topic and method of this master class ties in with the current interest at VUB (and beyond) of both developing innovative research methodologies in the context of Brussels (and other superdiverse cities) and providing a basis for interventions and community development in urban contexts.

Contact person: Sophie Withaeckx

Action research is characterized by a participatory, democratic approach, that aims to bring together ‘action and reflection, theory and practice’ in close collaboration with those concerned by the research (stakeholders).  Action research is social research, aimed at developing intervention strategies in a dynamic context, inspired by curiosity and a desire to understand the complexities of ever-changing environments. The “knowledge” produced in the research should be included in everyday practice and stimulate the formation of new empowering collectives. Aiming to produce knowledge that is of practical use and conducive to the wellbeing of individuals, communities, action research can help us to challenge power hierarchies and inequalities and contributes to larger-scale democratic social change.

Haifa Tlili, (Ph.D. in Sociology at Paris Descartes-Sorbonne University), is research associate at Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University (Montreal) and post doctoral researcher at UFOLEP in 2013-14 (Union Française des Oeuvres Laïques d'Education Physique). She has used the method of action research to investigate the experiences, attitudes and views of girls in French underprivileged neighborhoods. By giving voices to the girls themselves (aged from 14 to 19 (n=100)) and to the sport actors (n=40) who work with them in 6 departments (Lille, Calais, Paris St Ouen, Evry, Marseille, Montpellier) the method of action research allowed to gain understanding of how they relate to physical activities, why they do or don’t practice sport by highlighting their representations of the body and sport, which obstacles they meet when practicing sport. The research revealed how discourses on sport and the body are not homogeneous; it allowed to map how girls’ representations of sport and the significance of religion considerably differed from those of formal representatives of local and national government and sport organizations. By applying action research as a method, the data could be used in a collaborative process to co-construct recommendations with girls, practitioners, stakeholders and sport institutions.

In this master class, Haifa Tlili will share her theoretical and practical knowledge of conducting action research with a vulnerable population in underprivileged urban areas. First, she will share her experiences with doing action research, by presenting her own research, the challenges she faced and the results she obtained. Furthermore, she invites PhD-students to present their own research and offer her advice on integrating an action research-design in their own research.


Please register here

We kindly ask you to register only once and only when you can actually participate. In case you have already registered but are not able to participate, please be so kind as to notify us by sending an e-mail to so we can offer your place to one of your PhD colleagues on the waiting list.

Please be aware of the fact that the cancellation and no-show policy of VUB applies. Cancellation of your participation is only allowed up to 48 hours before the start of the course. Otherwise, the policy as described on the doctoral school website will be followed.

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