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Paper: Teaching social research methods after the critical turn

The International Journal of Social Research Methodology continues to publish from its forthcoming Special Issue on the teaching of research methods. This week, authors Cosmo Howard and Michelle Brady focus on the challenges of teaching within a context increasingly informed by post-modern and post-structural critiques of conventional research methods. Their paper “Teaching social research methods after the critical turn: challenges and benefits of a constructivist pedagogy” discusses the value of constructivist pedagogy for teaching research methods in disciplines where student skepticism concerning empirical methods can lead to disengagement.


An increasing challenge for teaching methods courses in the social sciences is the ‘critical turn’, which has encouraged some students to adopt an anti-empirical orientation. We present a case study of a compulsory undergraduate methods course in a political science department strongly influenced by post-structuralist philosophies. The first author redesigned the course to implement four constructivist pedagogical principles: (1) develop a full understanding of students’ pre-existing perceptions of political science research methods; (2) encourage students to see methodology as an inevitably contested field; (3) provide space for students to choose a methodological approach that best aligns with their personal stance on knowledge; and (4) encourage students to view research as an ongoing ‘conversation’. We critically reflect on the implementation of these constructivist pedagogical strategies and argue they improve students’ critical engagement with course material, increase linkages between methods teaching and other disciplinary subject matter, and accommodate diverse student perspectives and needs.

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The Special Issue convened by guest editors Prof Melanie Nind (Pedagogy of Methodological Learning project PI), Dr Daniel Kilburn (UCL) and Dr Rebekah Luff (National Centre for Research Methods) will be published in full this Autumn.