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The pedagogy of methodological learning (Workpackage 5)

The pedagogy of methodological learning is a three-year research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of a package of research by the National Centre for Research Methods. It is intended to promote pedagogical development for advanced social science research methods.

Advanced research requires a unique combination of theoretical understanding, procedural knowledge and skills competence; nonetheless, there has been little research about pedagogy associated with this. In the UK, doctoral researchers have learned through an apprenticeship model of supervision, with taught courses and formal training becoming a more recent requirement. Subsequent capacity building has focussed on the incorporation of core and advanced training tailored toward the professional and methodological development of researchers. The lack of ‘pedagogic culture’1, i.e. lack of debate, investigation and evaluation regarding how research methods are taught and learned is problematic2. Little is understood about how best to respond to the distinctive pedagogical challenges in this field.

This research seeks to:

  1. advance an emerging pedagogical culture and content knowledge for social science research methods teaching;
  2. create a typology of pedagogical approaches for social research methods teaching to inform national policy and practice;
  3. develop a coherent theoretical framework for methods teaching to inform national practice.

 To this end, the project deploys three complementary components:

  • expert panel method, including interviews with a panel of international experts in research methods teaching;
  • diary methods and longitudinal analysis by and with researchers at different stages of doctoral and post-doctoral research careers about their methods learning experiences;
  • case studies of methodological and pedagogical innovation, including video stimulated recall and reflection by researchers, teachers and learners in response to specific methods training events.

Since starting exploratory work in 2013 we have found encouraging ‘aspects of pedagogical scholarship’ and ‘increasing attention to the specifics of teaching and learning for particular research methods, approaches or techniques’3. We have developed methodological tools that will help in the ongoing research (Nind et al. forthcoming) and we have begun to identify practical messages for methods trainers4. This research will substantially advance and stimulate this nascent field, to inform teaching and learning, policy and practice within and beyond the National Centre for Research Methods.



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

2Earley, M., (2013) A synthesis of the literature on research methods education. Teaching in Higher Education. 19 (3), 242-253.

3Kilburn, 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.

4Kilburn, D., Nind, M. & Wiles, R. (2014) Short Courses in Advanced Research Methods: Challenges and Opportunities for Teaching and Learning. Project Report. NCRM.

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