Teaching Philosophy & Approach to CBPR

CARTA uses an integrated approach to teaching CBPR: students are expected to conduct a community based research project while participating in the course. In this manner, the concrete and practical aspects of conducting CBPR reinforce classroom learning.

Community based participatory research can be defined both broadly and narrowly. The concepts in this CBPR course can be applied across the board to many different types of research in many different kinds of communities. However, in order to make your CBPR course practical to your students, a more focused approach is likely required. CARTA’s students primarily conducted mental health research in urban underserved communities. Thus, we brought in guest speakers and tailored some of our content to be specific towards urban mental health. Depending on the communities in your area and the interests of your students, different customizations may be required.

Often when we think of research, we conjure up images of laboratories, test tubes, vigorous statistical analysis, verbose journal articles, and results that are more interesting in theory than in practice. As a counterpoint, community organizations are associated with implementation: instead of publishing a journal article bemoaning the nutritional deficits of inner city children, a community organization starts a soup kitchen. The soup kitchen may not provide nutritionally optimal meals, but the journal article provides no meals at all. CBPR, when done right, marries academic research with community organizations to provide the best of both worlds. It is the collegial collaboration between academia and community that allows for rigorous research design and statistical analysis to yield implemented results.

The Living Manual

This manual will be updated corresponding with future iterations of CARTA’s CBPR course. As lectures are added and modified, this manual will be expanded and refined. Additionally, we wish to encourage input from other experts in CBPR. CARTA teaches broad CBPR principles from the perspective of mental health in urban under-served communities, but we want to hear about CBPR in other contexts as well. How does CBPR change when applied to rural settings? Or different age groups? Or different ethnicities? Or different socioeconomic classes? We want to know. For this reason, we have opened up a comments section at the end of each unit. Please post links to articles, personal experiences working with different communities, and whatever else you think will add to the value of this manual.

Course Logistics


Students are expected to have a strong background in either research or community organizations. This is a graduate course. In order to select participants from the applicant pool, we used this worksheet.

Lectures, Research Small Groups, and Days With an Expert

CARTA’s CBPR course runs for an entire year, meeting once a week. Each weekly session lasts about 4 hours and is composed of any combination of lectures, research small groups (RSGs), and guest speakers.
  • Lectures typically involved a 60-minute PowerPoint presentation followed by student discussion.
  • RSGs are groups of 4-6 students that meet for the purposes of discussing each other’s projects. 
  • Days With an Expert allow students to meet and learn from the CBPR rockstars. We look for guest speakers who have conducted extensive community based research in fields similar to the students’ interests. The general structure of a “Day With an Expert” includes a 1hr presentation by the expert on their own research followed by a Question and Answer session.

Curriculum Development

In order to help you tailor this course towards the specific interests of your participants, we have included a curriculum development tool. This worksheet will help focus these classes towards the needs of your academic and community partners.

Lesson Plans

As noted above, the rest of the manual is divided into 6 units. Each unit has an introductory page, a list of references, and 4-10 individual lesson plans. For example, Unit 1 is entitled “Overview of Community Based Participatory Research”. The introductory page to this unit includes goals, objectives, an outline of the individual lessons, teaching tips, and contact information. The following pages are the individual lessons that take place within Unit 1. For instance, Unit 1: Session 1 is entitled “CARTA Overview and Introduction to Community Based Research (CBR)”.