Overcoming inequalities in schools and learning communities is a current concern for many countries. Doing this through research requires a methodological approach oriented not only to describe and explain reality, but to look for solutions to the challenges that systematic underserved populations face in their daily lives. Aligned to the transformative paradigm, Communicative Methodology (CM) uses dialogue as a tool to produce socially relevant knowledge oriented to transform the reality studied. The premise of the CM is that scientific knowledge is constructed dialogically, engaging transformative dialogues between researchers, who contribute with the research-based knowledge, and the participants, who bring their ‘lifeworlds’ into the creation of new knowledge. This aligns with the current global debate of co-creation in social sciences research. Hence, CM is a methodological response to the dialogic turn of societies and sciences.
CM is oriented to transform situations of inequality, aiming at achieving scientific, policy and social impact through engaging in a continuous egalitarian and intersubjective dialogue between researchers and the participants. This egalitarian dialogue starts at the very beginning of the research process and continues throughout, including through the analysis and the dissemination of findings. It aligns with the current global demand for co-creation, based in a dual conception of society (Habermas) and in a dialogical understanding of human beings as transformative agents oriented to action (Freire). With the purpose to achieve socially relevant results for the betterment of society, CM moves from doing research ‘on’ vulnerable populations to doing research ‘with’ and ‘for’ them .
A communicative organisation of the research implies creating spaces of egalitarian dialogue among all potential participants. The main purpose is contrasting the research-based knowledge with the everyday knowledge of the participants. A powerful resource is the advisory committee. In contrast to a traditional panel of experts, the committee is formed of representatives of all people participating in the research. Working with vulnerable groups requires the participation of the very representatives of these groups. For example, when doing research with Roma people, a social worker who has a long experience with the Roma population does not really represent the most vulnerable people in that group. The advisory committee guarantees the inclusion of the voices of those who suffered those inequalities and who fight to transform their reality. This committee discusses the contributions (i.e. documents, materials, etc.) and results obtained in the project. Hence, it validates the research production through an egalitarian and intersubjective dialogue among all participants. Working in this way, the research results are oriented towards the transformation or improvement of living conditions of the most vulnerable groups.
When applying communicative data collection techniques, such as daily life stories, communicative focus groups, and communicative observations, the data collection involves a dialogical process during the fieldwork and the data interpretation. It implies that the reality observed and explored is interpreted by combining the main theoretical background and the practical vision of the participants simultaneously. In that way, the role of the researcher is to incorporate the main theoretical advancements into the dialogue with the participants who stand on an equal footing. All participants can link these theories with their feelings, opinions and different visions, obtaining a dialogical interpretation of reality instead of a dialectical one. The final interpretation is always in the hands of both the researcher and the participants, overcoming interpretative hierarchies from a communicative rationality.
The communicative analysis has a twofold design: on the one hand, it includes an ‘exclusionary dimension’ to identify barriers and problems which causes the situation of inequality: and on the other hand, it has a ‘transformative dimension’ to envision possible ways to overcome these problems. Therefore, it allows the involved parties to find pathways to overcome the obstacles to equality through an egalitarian dialogue between researchers and participants.
Many research results obtained through the application of CM have tuned into recommendations for effective educational practices internationally. Moreover, educational and social policies and, most importantly, the lives of participants have been transformed through the CM, reaching social and policy impact through research. For more information about this approach see .
Submitted by Rocío García-Carrión, University of Lleida and Aitor Gomez Gonzalez, University Rovira i Virgili on Thursday, 15th November 2018