Henry Wellcome Building, Leicester University

Event: Developing a Pedagogical Culture for Teaching Research Methods

The University of Leicester will be hosting the forthcoming biennial RC33: 9th International Conference on Social Science Methodology in September 2016. The conference incorporates a significant session dedicated to methods teaching: ‘Developing a Pedagogical Culture for Teaching Research Methods‘ convened by Barbara Kawulich (University of West Georgia, USA), Claire Wagner (University of Pretoria, South Africa) and Mark Garner (Whitelands College, University of Roehampton, UK).  The session runs from 9.30am to 1pm, Room 2, on Thursday 15th September (the 4th day of the RC33).

In the session information, the convenors observe:

There continues to be a dearth of literature related to a pedagogical culture for teaching research methods (RM) (Wagner, Garner, & Kawulich, 2011; Earley, 2014; Kilburn, Nind, & Wiles, 2014). We propose a session that offers those who teach RM the opportunity to further develop this field of study through stimulating debate and sharing of ideas and practices to promote the development of a pedagogical culture for RM. We welcome papers that address research and theoretical developments in teaching of RM to future researchers in various disciplines or fields.

Earley, M. (2014). A synthesis of the literature on research methods education. Teaching in Higher Education, 19 (3), 242–253.

Kilburn, D., Nind, M., Wiles, R. (2014). Learning as researchers and teachers: The development of a pedagogical culture for social science research methods? British Journal of Educational Studies, 62 (2), 191-207.

Wagner, C., Garner, M., & Kawulich, B. (2011). The state of the art of teaching research methods in the social sciences: Towards a pedagogical culture. Studies in Higher Education, 36 (1), 75–88.

We will be presenting a paper from our research (‘In the classroom, in the field: expert perspectives on the challenge of experiential learning in advanced methods teaching’) as part of this morning session, and we are looking forward to attending and participating in what promises to be a thought-provoking event. To register for the day, or the wider conference, visit the RC33 conference pages.

Title: In the classroom, in the field: expert perspectives on the challenge of experiential learning in advanced methods teaching
Presenters: Sarah Lewthwaite, Debbie Collins
Affiliations:  National Centre for Research Methods, University of Southampton, UK


There is a considerable consensus that developing the pedagogic culture around social research methods is necessary to the development of that pedagogy (Wagner et al 2011; Earley 2014; Kilburn et al 2014). Dialogue between teachers of research methods is critical to this pedagogic culture, as is the generation of evidence about teachers’ pedagogic practices. This is particularly pertinent as the balance of methods education is shifting from students learning through practising as researchers, to more systematic tuition; a shift in part attributable to concerns about global competiveness demanding a critical mass of highly skilled social researchers (Nind et al, 2015). The research discussed in this paper is an attempt to build pedagogic culture by involving teachers and learners of research methods in sharing and generating pedagogic knowledge through a multi-component study of the pedagogy of methodological learning.

In this paper we focus on one aspect of this work: the pedagogic challenge associated with methods learning that, rather than meeting specific and immediate goals as a researcher, involves learning that is intentional but unsituated. This is the learning that takes place out of context, for which the purpose and utility will be known at another time in a remote situation (Crook & Lewthwaite, 2010). Methods teachers are grappling with formal curricula, short courses, international summer schools and the expectation of online courses in which research methods must be taught out of situ while still incorporating the mix of theoretical understanding, skills and procedural knowledge that is particular to methods teaching (Kilburn et al., 2014). In the paper we examine (i) the reflections of social research methods teachers on the particular pedagogic challenges of conveying the implicit and tacit knowledge that are frequently evoked only in the doing of research; and (ii) what we know about the role that digital technology plays in tackling these challenges. We draw on data generated from a UK and international expert panel of methods teachers who might be considered pedagogic leaders, focus groups with methods teachers, ongoing diary reflections of methods learners, and an in-depth thematic analysis of the recent literature.

We report findings pertaining to the useful ways in which methods teachers convey and manage the implicit and tacit knowledge that is frequently evoked only in the doing of research. This includes the ways in which methods teachers connect learners to the world of social research; how they provide for direct and immersive experiences of research practice; how they value and promote reflexivity; and how they use digital technology in relation to the above.