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Building a framework for assessing the outcomes of participatory training: A case study from El Imposible National Park, El Salvador

Mark Protti, University of Massachusetts Amherst


In the field of rural development there is an increasing appreciation for the need to involve local people in all aspects of their own development. This situation has led to the emergence of many different participatory approaches that attempt to respond to this changing development paradigm. Participatory approaches strive to enable people to value and build upon the knowledge and power that already exists in their own community. Paulo Freire's work on transformative education has greatly influenced the process, content and expected outcomes of the different methodologies used to attain popular participation in rural development. Academics and development practitioners believe that by engaging in a participatory process, people will gain greater control over their own development which can lead to physical, behavioral, attitudinal, organizational and philosophical transformations within individuals and communities. Yet, little has been done in evaluating the range of outcomes and longer term impact a participatory approach may have on the individuals and communities involved. Thus, the development field operates with an incomplete understanding of the potential benefits and limitations of participatory methodologies as they are applied to rural communities. This study partially addresses such a deficiency through an in-depth, qualitative investigation of the short term outcomes generated by a training intervention based on critical pedagogy. The training took place in the communities of San Francisco Menéndez and Tacuba, El Salvador to respond to issues that emerged with the establishment of El Imposible National Park. Qualitative research methods were used to assess the program's effects on the participants. These data, along with products and outputs generated by the participants during the training programs, were analyzed to develop a framework for assessing the short term impact of participatory training on rural development. The research findings show that changes in consciousness level are highly individualized and could only be assessed from the researcher's in-depth interactions with the training participants and from the perspective of the participants' life situation and history. The study challenges policy makers, social researchers and development practitioners to consider the plurality of endogenous and exogenous community interactions as key components to the participatory process in rural development.

Subject Area

Adult education|Continuing education|Social structure|Social research

Recommended Citation

Protti, Mark, "Building a framework for assessing the outcomes of participatory training: A case study from El Imposible National Park, El Salvador" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9932339.