22 SES 10 A, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
How do social science researchers learn about social research methods - the skills - and the knowledge and understanding required for their tailored application to research problems? How do teachers/trainers of research methods develop and use their pedagogical knowledge for developing the methodological learning of others? These are the fundamental questions underpinning current research funded by the National Centre for Research Methods in the UK and informing this paper. The UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has been concerned enough about the UK’s social science research capacity and global competitiveness to make capacity building in methods the focus of major investment for the last decade. In the recent past social science doctoral researchers largely learned through apprenticeship/ supervision only; since then taught courses and formal training have increasingly become a requirement for doctoral students. The emergence of ESRC Doctoral Training Centres is a landmark in this shift in focus, discussed by Boud and Lee (2008), from the thesis and independent research as the sole focus of the doctoral education process to a the incorporation of core and advanced training tailored toward professional development of the capacity of the researcher. On a European level, the Salzburg Principles also appear to have fostered the adoption of more structured forms of doctoral training, under a conception of doctoral learners as ‘early stage researchers’ undergoing preparation for the job market, as advocated by the European University Association’s (EUA) Council for Doctoral Education (Kottmann 2011). The policy climate in Europe and the UK therefore appears to reflect similar concerns about research training and capacity building in response to the challenges of the global knowledge economy.
Amidst this changing landscape of research opportunities and demands (Moley et al, 2013), and especially in the context of the drive towards more methods training, there has developed (at least) two concurrent discourses – one about doctoral education and one about training and capacity building. The latter in particular has virtually no pedagogic space, with the discourse largely limited to problematising deficits in skills or capacities and exploring effective modes of training delivery (online versus face-to-face). More widely, a lack of a pedagogic culture for research methods has been noted (Wagner et al. 2011). This research has been a response to this situation, intended to create pedagogic spaces where they have so far been absent and to open and sustain a dialogue between teachers of research methods, those concerned providing advanced methods training to researchers, methodology researchers and learners of research methods.
Theoretically, concepts of complexity are useful here. The working premise is that what is needed is not what Stacey (2012) describes as the high agreement, high certainty territory of standards, guidance and monitoring of best practice, nor the low agreement, low certainty territory of chaos and anarchy, but the middle space ‘zone of complexity’ with exploration and dialogue. Stacey (2001: 210) argues that ‘the source of skilled behaviour is not tacit knowledge locked in an individual’s head but the ongoing participation in patterns of relating’; thus, it is the relating between teachers and trainers, and between teachers and learners that we have been exploring. In fostering dialogue in this research we have followed Stacey’s advice that it is widening and deepening the conversation that matters – as opposed to ‘closing down the conversation by a hasty jump straight to what is thought of as a “solution”’ (Stacey, 2012: 113). Creating research ‘spaces for restless encounter’ (Fielding, 2010: 61) is a constructive route to enable ‘creative, holistic and potentially transformative ways’ of engaging with the challenge and teasing out the pedagogical content knowledge for social research methods.
Boud, D., and A. Lee. (2008) Framing Doctoral Education as Practice. In Changing Practices of Doctoral Education, ed. D. Boud and A. Lee. Abingdon: Routledge. Earley, M. (2013) A synthesis of the literature on research methods education. Teaching in Higher Education. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2013.860105. Fielding, M. (2010) The radical potential of student voice: creating spaces for restless encounters, International Journal of Emotional Education 2, no.1: 61-73. Kottmann, A. (2011) Reform of Doctoral Training in Europe: A Silent Revolution? In Reform of Higher Education in Europe, edited by J Enders, H de Boer and D Westerheijden. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Moley, S., R. Wiles, and P. Sturgis. (2013) Advanced Research Methods Training in the UK: Current Provision and Future Strategies. University of Southampton: ESRC National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM). Stacey, R. (2001) Complex responsive processes in organization: Learning andknoweldge creation. London: Routledge. Stacey, R. (2013) Tools and tecnhiques of leadership and management: Meeting the challenge of complexity. Abingdon: Routledge. Wagner, C., M. Garner, and B. Kawulich. (2011) The state of the art of teaching research methods in the social sciences: towards a pedagogical culture. Studies in Higher Education 36, no. 1:75-88.
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