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Teaching research methods. a proposal to develop a teaching method that combines small group teaching with use of computers in a workshop setting. The problem: research-oriented teaching.

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teaching research methods

Teaching research methods

a proposal to develop a teaching method that combines small group teaching with use of computers in a workshop setting

the problem research oriented teaching
The problem: research-oriented teaching

Teaching research methods is largely skills teaching, best supported by research-oriented and research-based approaches

Allowing students to engage in practical, hands-on learning

set in small groups allowing students to practice new skills in a supportive peer-environment and to learn from one another whilst under close supervision

Workshops would consist of a number of small research tasks which require online access but also pen to paper

Neither normal seminar rooms nor computer clusters allow for this kind of dynamic learning.

the project
The project

Part of the module SOC1031, Knowing in Sociology, semester 2 of 2011-12

Sessions run as 5 workshops

Each group receives 1 laptop to share, seminar leader has one machine in addition

Students work in small groups of 3-5 on research tasks with clear instructions

groups need to answer questions and take notes on a ‘task sheet’ which they are instructed to email each other at the end of each session

the workshops
The workshops

Reading and presenting statistics: checking sets of statistical data on online databases (ESDS, neighbourhood statistics)

Survey knowledge in the media: starting with a newspaper article, tracing and checking figures on official databases (ONS)

Developing an interviewschedule

Reflecting on/analysing the interview

Projects and reports: tracing original reports online and double-checking findings(googling; searching the internet)


Via questionnaire and group discussion in workshop 5

Reflection of ML (PI) and two Teaching Assistants

Positive features outweighed negative features of teaching in evaluation

Some issues with tasks in the early workshops, students uncertain about the 2 hr slot

Responses to working with laptops: overwhelmingly positive. Laptops were useful for Finding stats/access to data/websites/most recent data/comparing data using different tools; shared worksheets; assignments; interactive/practical; transfer skills to own PC; facilitated group work

Problems: number of laptops for some (others disagreed); distribution of group work; technical difficulties

Would you bring your own laptop? No: 26; Yes, but really prefer not to: 15; yes, but others can’t use it: 6; yes: 15;

wider discussion
Wider discussion

Workshop in GPS in September 2012 with colleagues who teach research methods or skills

Wider exchange about the challenges of teaching research methods, skillsand differences/overlaps within the school

On teaching techniques general agreement that computer clusters are very difficult teaching spaces: do not easily allow for group work; need to be cleared of users prior to teaching and are then frequently disrupted.

This type of laptop-set up or anything similar that allows for teaching to take place in more accommodating seminar spaces seems much preferable.

Problem: lack of wifi connectivity across campus, logistics (lugging 6 laptops across)

Is there a need to rethink computer provision?