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NCRM Bitesize Lessons for Teaching Social Science Research Methods

Here we provide some bitesize lessons about teaching research methods and delivering research methods training. We have condensed longer papers so that busy people can get the key ideas here and have useful references to follow up.

The first papers in this series are drawn from the recent NCRM systematic review, Lessons for teaching social science research methods in higher education: Synthesis of the literature 2014-2020. Further papers will summarise elements of the Handbook of Teaching and Learning Social Research Methods.

1: Active Learning

Active learning is an approach that values learning by doing. It involves a mix of doing and reflecting and may be referred to as ‘hands on learning’. It requires activities in which learners do things in practical and thoughtful ways so that they actively construct knowledge and build skills. Read this guide.

2: Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is rooted in the idea that experience plays a critical role in learning. The core idea is that you learn by doing and by reflecting on that doing. The experience in experiential learning tends to be in an authentic context or, if it has to be simulated, readily translatable to an authentic context. Experiences thus support holistic learning and this kind of learning is often contrasted with more fragmented, classroom-based or textbook style learning. Read this guide.

3: Learning from Learners

It is clear from the scholarly work on teaching research methods that teachers/trainers often favour student-centred learning approaches. Student-centredness involves working with and valuing learners’ own experiences, knowledge, and expertise, thereby making the learning personally relevant and learners more motivated. In this way they learn better, make cognitive connections, and develop as learners and people. This reflects a concept of students as knowledge-producers who need to be engaged in creating their own knowledge through inquiry and dialogue. For this, learners need to work both independently and collaboratively. Read this guide.

4: Teaching Digital Methods to Students without Technology Backgrounds

While there is no consensus on a single definition, the term ‘digital methods’ is frequently attributed to Richard Rogers at the University of Amsterdam. He advocates for the use of digitally native data, such as social media posts, geolocation data, and web search results, to explore broader social and cultural issues. Those who subscribe to this definition usually differentiate between digital methods and virtual methods.

The latter refers to digitised extensions of traditional methods, such as online surveys and interviews. Consequently, digital methods are often associated with large datasets and computational techniques. However, this guide adopts a more inclusive perspective, encompassing digital ethnography and other qualitative approaches. Read this guide.