This blog post was compiled by Karen Burrows from University Centre Grimsby (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
This workshop and seminar event was funded as part of HEA Social Sciences strategic priorities 2013 - 14. Further details of the work for the priority 'Teaching research methods in the Social Sciences' can be accessed via this link.
Teaching research methods is problematic; research suggests that the terminology is challenging and is often referred to as inaccessible and ‘complicating common sense’. This workshop aimed to address showcase innovative and creative pedagogy in teaching research methods, with a particular emphasis on the use of games in the classroom.
The focus of the workshop was to debate some of the issues surrounding the teaching and learning of research methods in the social sciences and to identify methods that aim to address these issues. The use of games is not a new concept but does have the advantage of encouraging engagement in the classroom (Franklin et al, 2003: 1). One of the chief advantages to games, simulations and puzzles in an educational setting is that students are active participants rather than passive observers, involved with making decisions, solving problems and reacting to the results of their decisions.
The aim was to discuss and showcase games, in particular a board game pedagogy that aims to dispel the fear social scientists have in learning research methods.
Grimsby on a wet and dull October afternoon may not be everyone’s’ first choice destination, but those that braved the worst of the weather and the best the UK transport network had to offer, were amply rewarded for their efforts at the University Centre Grimsby’s (UCG) inaugural HEA workshop. Some 32 delegates, including staff and students from UCG and institutions from as far afield as Bolton and London, and point’s in-between, were treated to a varied programme of exploration around the concept of games and research methodology within HE.
The guest speaker was Professor Kevin Flint; Joint Programme Leader for the Professional Doctorate programmes at Nottingham Trent University and teaches methodology and philosophy on the Research Practice. He kindly agreed to deliver the key note speech, and enthralled the audience with his fascinating discussion on the philosophy of education and the use of language games and play in teaching and learning. A link to the abstract for his speech can be found here.
The breadth and nature of the content provoked a lively Q&A session following the talk, foreshortened only by the untimely arrival of afternoon refreshments. Following this the host organisers, Karen Burrows, Amy Pearson and Nick Wragg then showcased their recently developed learning resources – a four stage teaching tool and methodology resources, first displayed at the Social Sciences HEA conference at Liverpool in May.
These have been refined over time and are now available via the HEA website. The link to the conference blog can be found here.
Sadly time constraints did not allow for a practical demonstration of the board game, as delegates were encouraged within the structure of a round table format to discuss themes around;
- What is the most difficult element of teaching research methods?
- Do you think the uses of games are appropriate in a HE environment?
- What would you identify the main barriers to learning research methods are?
- What do you think is the future direction of teaching research methods?
Responses suggested that students do not engage with methodology because the language used is alien to many groups and not seen as core studies. The terminology is complex, and students are afraid to ask if they do not understand. However it was seen that games are part of a wider teaching strategy, and as research methodology evolves and widens, this ‘learning by doing’ approach helps to remove some of the barriers such as lack of student confidence and topic relevance.
During the discussion delegates were also encouraged to showcase and give examples of their own use of games within a Higher Educational setting.
The afternoon proceedings were purposefully informal, to allow the delegates to fully interact with the process of discourse and discussion. This also enabled students to feel at ease and participate. Their feedback via a Facebook forum suggested they did…
“Thank you for letting us come along. I hope you guys get the help you need to get it going as I think this will help a lot of people and you have a lot to be proud of. Was great that our opinions were actually taken on board, as I have found in some cases like that people will say that they are listening to students and then completely discard what they have said.”
The afternoon created valuable feedback from both teachers and students that will enable further development of the teaching tools created by the hosts and ensure that they are fit for purpose across a wide range of disciplines. The student feedback was encouraging in the usefulness of the tools and gave ‘food for thought’ for the eventual creation of an online application.
There are also numerous workshops to be delivered over the next academic year relating to the topic of research methods.
The fourth stage of the project is now in the early stages, a student is working on the framework for the online application game as part of his degree programme and the team have applied for a teaching development grant to make the application a professional reality that can be disseminated nationwide. We are awaiting the decision on the funding, even if the answer is no the team will endeavour to continue in their quest to make this a reality.
Furthermore, we are creating a network of interested parties who would like to collaborate in the future direction of the teaching tools.
Do you agree that there is value derived from the use of ‘games’ as a teaching method in Higher Education?
The event organisers, Karen Burrows, Amy Pearson and Nick Wragg would like to invite comments from colleagues on their experiences of using games within HE. Either contact Karen directly or leave a reply below
Franklin, Sue, Peat, Mary, Lewis and Alison (2003) Non-traditional interventions to stimulate discussion: the use of games and puzzles. Journal of Biological Education (Society of Biology), 00219266, Spring2003, Vol. 37, Issue 2