The Pedagogy of Methodological Learning

Categories: Focus Series, Instruction, Other, Research, Tools and Resources


The MethodSpace focus for August is on teaching research methods. We will follow on in September, with a focus on mentoring, supervising, and guiding researchers. You can find the whole series here, including information about the September 12 webinar,”Nurturing the Researchers of Tomorrow.” Register now and find the time in your zone here.

A UK project with methods teaching resources for all

The pedagogy of methodological learning was a three-year research project funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council as part of a package of research by the National Centre for Research Methods. The impetus for the project was an identified need to better understand how to teach students and prepare them for the roles and responsibilities of research.

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.

The project aimed to “promote pedagogical development for advanced social science research methods” and 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.

Luckily for all of us, the important work conducted by Dr. Melanie Nind, Dr. Sarah Lewthwaite, and others is available in the open access project archives.

Resources about Teaching Methods

Find links to two recent articles that report on the project’s research, plus lists to articles and practical “Quick Start Guides” for methods faculty.

  • A conceptual-empirical typology of social science research methods pedagogy (Nind & Lewthwaite, 2019). This open access paper is based on research from the Pedagogy of Methodological Learning project. A conceptual-empirical typology of social science research methods pedagogy was published in Research Papers in Education, and shares findings from across the four year study with advanced methods teachers and learners.

    Abstract. The challenge of research methods teaching is gaining attention among policy-makers keen to build social science research capacity and, critically, among educationalists keen to enhance the pedagogy. This paper addresses pedagogy, presenting a new conceptual-empirical typology of pedagogy for social science research methods teaching. Taking a sociocultural perspective, pedagogy is seen as encompassing both actions and underlying values. A mix of qualitative methods was used to engage more than 100 methods teachers (plus students) from diverse UK and international contexts. An expert panel method and focus groups helped elucidate pedagogical knowledge. Video-stimulated reflective dialogue added detail to that knowledge. Thematic analysis was used to make sense of teaching practice with individuals and across the dataset. A typology of research methods teaching developed iteratively across this process, proposing the core categories of approach, strategy, tactics and tasks. In-depth case studies helped to gain nuance and test the emergent typology in situ. The paper argues that the typology contributes a dynamic tool for developing practice. It transforms the way we think about teaching and can be applied in any social science research method teaching context, benefitting the pedagogic community by enabling greater focus in planning and reflection.
  • Student Perspectives On Learning Research Methods (Nind, Holmes, Insenga, Lewthwaite, & Sutton, 2019). This open access paper was based on research from the Pedagogy of Methodological Learning project. ‘Student Perspectives on Learning Research Methods in the Social Sciences‘, is published in Teaching in Higher Education, and shares findings from the diary method research with advanced methods learners

    Abstract. This paper addresses the perspectives of students of social science research methods from a UK study of their holistic experience of learning during two years of their postgraduate research training/ early careers as researchers. Unusually the ten participants span diverse institutions and disciplines and three became co-authors. The study used a diary circle combining online diary method with face-to-face focus groups to generate dialogue. Data were analysed narratively and thematically to produce two individual learning journeys and a synthesis of common experiences. Findings show the active, experiential learning of the participants alongside salient themes of difficulty and struggle. This leads to discussion of the emotional dimensions of methods learning and implications for teaching. The iterative role of the diary circle in the learning journey is also examined. The paper argues that teachers and supervisors should attend more carefully to the social, emotional, active and reflective nature of methods learning.

For more scholarly articles about the pedagogy of teaching methods, see:

For more practical resources about teaching methods, follow these links. See the Quick Guides for Methods Teachers as well as workshop and presentation materials. Three recently published guides are:

Learn more about teaching methods and mentoring researchers! Register now for a MethodSpace Live webinar: Nurturing the Researchers of Tomorrow.
Date: September 12
Time: Find the time in your zone here.

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