Democratic methodology in community engagement

Vicky Duckworth, Rob Smith

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The further education (FE) sector comprises colleges, training providers, work-based as well as community learning. In the current context of budget cuts and Area Reviews, this paper presents findings from a research project into FE as a ‘differential space’ (Lefebvre 1992) in which learners, supported by critical pedagogy, are able to experience education as transformational (Mezirow 2000; Duckworth 2013). The research project: FE in England- transforming lives and communities ( utilised a digitally orientated research methodology to gather, explore and share the data. The data comprised a series of rich narratives from learners, teachers, employers and learners’ family members. These were collected through video recorded interviews which were then shared via a project website. A Youtube channel ( and twitter account (@FEtransforms) were further features of a multi-faceted digital platform that were used to create a project audience and an interactive critical space which garnered further contributions in the form of written narratives, photographs and artefacts. The digital platform was the catalyst to what we describe as virtually enhanced engagement adding to the data and extending the influence and meanings of the project in the public domain – for example by connecting the researchers directly with a key policy maker. The research data illustrate that FE offers a critical space which is disruptive of the rigid linearity of the model of ‘learning progression’ at the heart of neoliberal paradigms of education that assesses and sorts individuals according to a qualification/age matrix. Instead, it offers organic tools for consciousness raising (Freire 1995) and transformation (Mezirow 2000), acting as a hope catalyst for significant changes in learners’ lives and teachers’ practice (Duckworth 2016; Ade-Ojo & Duckworth 2016). Key findings indicate that transformation involves subverting deficit labels and a lack of confidence derived from negative prior educational experiences, re-building self-esteem and (re)constructing positive educational identities. Learners’ relationships with teachers were also key in transformative journeys. FE offered a diverse learning space which embraced what learners described as their ‘spoilt’ identities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Jun 2017
EventBritish Educational Research Association (BERA) Conference - University of Sussex, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Sept 20177 Sept 2017


ConferenceBritish Educational Research Association (BERA) Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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