University of Oulu

Antti Rajala, Michael Cole & Moises Esteban-Guitart (2023) Utopian methodology: Researching educational interventions to promote equity over multiple timescales, Journal of the Learning Sciences, 32:1, 110-136, DOI: 10.1080/10508406.2022.2144736

Utopian methodology : researching educational interventions to promote equity over multiple timescales

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Author: Rajala, Antti1,2; Cole, Michael3; Esteban-Guitart, Moises4
Organizations: 1School of Educational Sciences and Psychology, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland
2Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Communication Department, Psychology Department, and Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, University of California San Diego, San Diego, USA
4Department of Psychology, Institute of Educational Research, University of Girona, Girona, Spain
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Informa, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-07-05


Background: This article explores the methodological foundations for a utopian methodology as a form of Design-Based Intervention Research (DBR) that can guide the process of envisioning, implementing, sustaining, and critically evaluating the more radical forms of educational activity systems that prefigure the utopian goal of an equitable and humane education system.

Methods: We examine, guided by a utopian methodology lens, the examples from three national traditions for designing and implementing equitable educational activities. Each illuminates critical phases in the process of conducting DBR, combining social theory and cultural-historical activity theory.

Findings: We propose methodological principles for a utopian methodology as a form of DBR: a) Some conditions for sustaining and re-generating the utopian goal should be explicitly considered; b) Examine the recurring challenges to viability and achievability of the utopian design in its learning ecology that emerge for observation over multiple times scales; c) Self-critique and collaborative re-design for a new iteration.

Contribution: Taken as an ensemble, the cases analyzed here illustrate the broad usefulness of the utopian methodology that we propose in order to maintain the light of the utopian goal and challenge domestication process embedded in any process of change and transformation of the status quo.

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Series: Journal of the learning sciences
ISSN: 1050-8406
ISSN-E: 1532-7809
ISSN-L: 1050-8406
Volume: 32
Issue: 1
Pages: 110 - 136
DOI: 10.1080/10508406.2022.2144736
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
Funding: This article is inspired by ongoing discussions and collaborative activities amongst a diverse group of scholars communicating as part of the Re-generating CHAT research network, funded by the Spencer Foundation. Our thanks also go to Guest Editors Antero Garcia and Nicole Mirra, and the three anonymous reviewers whose thoughtful comments greatly helped us to improve the paper. Rajala thanks Nimco Noor, Lasse Lipponen, Jaakko Hilppö, Juhana Rantavuori, and Annukka Pursi for their contribution to the Case 1 research project. He also thanks the Academy of Finland projects no. 299191 and no. 331413 for the financial support for preparing the article. Esteban-Guitart acknowledges the support by the Spanish Ministry of Innovation and Science, The Spanish State Research Agency and the European Regional Development Fund (grant number: PID2021-127143NB-100); and by the ICREA (“Institució Catalana de Recerca I Estudis Avançats”, Catalan Government) through the 2021 ICREA Academia Research Award.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 299191
Detailed Information: 299191 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
331413 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.