A discussion group is, in the words of Huertas and Vigier (2010, p. 183), “a meeting of a group of people with certain common characteristics, guided by a moderator, and designed with a view to eliciting information about a specific subject within a specific space and time”. As a social research technique, it draws from dialogue, which is reorganised and revised through the calculations of the group with a view to reaching a consensus; hence rather than isolated data, it provides the reconstruction of thought (Álvarez Rojo, 1990; Canales & Peinado, 1995).
These groups are artificial and acquire unity during their development process, giving rise to two types of relations: the relation that links each person with the group, and the relation that links the group with the researcher; in other words, they are constituted as such at the very moment that each interlocutor becomes involved in the development of discourse, facilitating symmetrical relations when carrying out the task. It is the group opinion that guarantees the validity of the product as a whole, by reconstructing the feelings of the group within a context of discussion and dialogue (Gil, 1992; Canales & Peinado, 1995; Suárez, 2005). In short, the discussion group provides access to information taken from real and natural situations, offering credible results, since it possesses a high level of subjective validity.
For their development, Suárez (2005, pp. 59-62) establishes six flexible stages, from initial approach up to dissemination:
- Exploration and contextualisation of the subject matter and observed reality.
- Preparation and definition of the subject matter, enabling a script to be drawn up, which would guide the development of the sessions. In this stage, the number of discussion groups is also decided along with the number of participants.
- Engagement of participants, indication of the group’s objective, and invitation to attend on the agreed date, time, and place. This stage also includes the discussion group session itself, welcoming the group, getting everyone settled, and carrying out the session itself.
- Analysis and interpretation of the information.
- Drafting of the research report, prior to research validation and feedback with participants.
In accordance with the stages set out above, it is important to make a few observations about the configuration of discussion groups. Canales and Peinado (1995) and Barbour (2013) highlight the importance of defining the total number of groups, the defining variables for each of them, as well as their geographic dispersal. If the aim of the sample is to be representative of the population as a whole, then seeking people determined a prior to be relevant in this field, and combining their defining attributes in accordance with certain minimum criteria, in terms of heterogeneity and homogeneity, guarantees the suitability of the group. Specifically, Gil (1992) indicates that ideally there should be as many discussion groups as segments of the population studied, so that it encompasses the whole of the representative spectrum, agreeing as a minimum three or four groups, and as a maximum ten or twelve.
Against this background, the aim of this study is to evaluate, by means of a discussion group, the extent to which social educators, in the performance of their professional duty, identify with the competency profile constructed on the basis of a comparative document study of the 38 curricula in place at Spanish universities, a profile that was previously identified by a panel of experts from the university sphere.
Álvarez Rojo, V. (1990). Los grupos de discusión. Cuestiones Pedagógicas: Revista de ciencias de la educación, 6-7, 2001-208. Barbour, R. (2013). Los grupos de discusión en investigación cualitativa. Madrid: Ediciones Morata. Canales, M. & Peinado, A. (1995). Grupo de discusión. In J. M. Delgado & J. Gutiérrez (Coords.), Métodos y técnicas cualitativas de investigación en ciencias sociales (pp. 288-316). Madrid: Síntesis. Gil, J. (1992). La metodología de investigación mediante grupos de discusión. Enseñanza & Teaching: Revista interuniversitaria de didáctica, 10, 199-212. Huertas, E. & Vigier, F.J. (2010). El grupo de discusión como técnica de investigación en la formación de traductores: dos casos de su aplicabilidad. Entreculturas, 2, 181-196. Suárez, M. (2005). El grupo de discusión: una herramienta para la investigación cualitativa. Barcelona: Laertes Suhaemi, M.E. & Aedi, N. (2015). A Management Strategy for the Improvement of Private Universities Lecturers’ Professional Competences. International Education Studies, 8(12), 241-254. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/ies.v8n12p241
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