Lead editor of special issue:
Jo Ferrie, Senior Lecturer in Social Research Methods, Sociology at University of Glasgow
Thees Spreckelsen, Lecturer in Q-Step and the School of Social & Political Sciences
Catriona Forrest, Early career researcher in the School of Social & Political Sciences
Special Issue of oSoTL
Using pedagogy to inform methods learning or using method to evaluate our pedagogy?
This special issue invites papers that relate either to the pedagogy of research practice, or how we can harness methods, methodologies and research design to better evaluate our teaching and learning?
Teaching students to develop their research practice is tough. The SoTL in this field is fairly new and has focused predominantly on the teaching of numeric data. This is fuelled both by the resistance shown by students (writing on maths anxiety, writing on anxiety and devaluing of courses that receive mixed student feedback, writing on the devaluing of high value, rather than enjoyable learning, writing on managers resisting adequate time to learn methods because they’re perceived as unpopular) and by the significant social science investment in Q-Step Centres across the UK (over £20million into 17 centres and producing significant outputs including writing on embedding methods in substantive learning and dealing with fear of numbers). Most of the literature in this field is published in journals that examine advances in methodologies, rather than dedicated SoTL journals and so can be difficult to find for those coming with pedagogic concerns.
Ralston (2020) argued that the separation of methods in the student’s learning experience creates an insurmountable gap for educators. By removing the learning from disciplinary homes into distinct methods courses and often taught in pan-disciplinary spaces, the implied message to students is that methods aren’t relevant. There is also emerging literature on what makes methods teaching different, perhaps best captured by Nind & Lewthwaite (2018) who argued that educators need content knowledge (grounded in disciplinary norms), knowledge of method and skills as well as pedagogical expertise. Where educators are teaching across Schools or Colleges, the content knowledge is particularly difficult to attain or demonstrate to students. Ferrie et al (2022) in their review of data-driven skill gaps flagged that few universities recognise and accommodate the additional labour and skill required to teach methods and pointed to other barriers to learning including large class sizes and the oppositional positioning of quantitative and qualitative approaches. Their work identified gaps also in digital skills, needed by all disciplines including those highly associated with computational methods,. Thus methods educators will need to redevelop materials to future-proof the learning experience.
If time is made available for methods educators to redesign materials, this could provide opportunities to engage with pedagogy of research methods and this special issue aims to support this work. We welcome papers from all disciplines or inter-disciplinary spaces that have innovated to aid student engagement.
In turn we welcome scholarship around how we evaluate our pedagogical work. SoTL has a reputation in some quarters for ‘easy’ outputs at odds with the competitive nature of leading journals. Journals dedicated to SoTL are increasingly asking reviewers to focus particularly on the methodology of work submitted. This can be challenging for scholars who are wedded to disciplines who are particularly numeric, who require to learn about more qualitative approaches. And the reverse is true, and learning statistical strategies to evaluate pedagogical impact can feel onerous and difficult to scholars used to working with text and words. This special issue encourages colleagues and peers to submit work that critically and intellectually engages with methodologies that support pedagogical evaluation.Process & Timeline
The timeline is fairly demanding, though in return the review team will aim to deliver the special issue within 2022. We invite expressions of interest in the first instance that:
- Include a working abstract of 300 words.
- A short explanation of how this paper fits the brief above, of 100 words.
- An indicative structure of the proposed paper or contribution, please try to keep to around 150 words.
- A brief outline of the authors, no more than 50 words per author. We encourage at least one author being at an early career stage as a vehicle for capacity building.
Please email these directly to Jo.Ferrie@glasgow.ac.uk including ‘oSoTL Special Issue’ in the subject of the email. Once the submission has been downloaded and saved, you will be emailed to confirm receipt. If you do not receive confirmation, you are encouraged to forward the original email again. The deadline for expressions of interest is Thursday 5th May (up to midnight).
Expressions of interest will be reviewed and all authors notified of the decision relating to their submission by Friday 13th May 2022. Successful authors will be asked to submit a complete paper by June 30th 2022. We appreciate that this is a tight deadline and applicants should be able to commit to this in advance of submitting the expression of interest.
The submitted articles will undergo a process of review. At least two peer reviewers will provide feedback on each submission and it is anticipated that feedback will be available to authors by 31st August 2022. The reviewers will be asked to evaluate each submission’s suitability for publication. In the case that a paper is found to be unsuitable, the special issue editorial team will review the paper before a final decision is made.
It is anticipated that all papers that require revision, will be resubmitted by the 14th October 2022 and this should accommodate publication in November.To clarify and in order to secure publication in 2022:
- 5th May
- Deadline for Expressions of Interest
- 13th May
- Authors informed about submission
- 30th June
- Complete papers submitted for review
- 31st August
- Peer review complete
- 14 October
- Revisions submitted
- Planned publication
The review process is a significant element of the oSoTL journal and is not anonymous in order to foster a more collaborative and transparent experience.
Ferrie et al (2022) highlighted the barriers post-graduate students face in learning how to write for publication, and how the peer-review process works in practice. To build capacity and offer a learning experience that promotes practice, the special issue editors will actively seek reviewers who are completing their PhD. To support the PhD students, they will be offered mentoring by the editorial team and a peer-mentoring space will be made available to them on teams. All papers will be reviewed by at least one academic working in a tenured-equivalent role.
 Williams, M., Payne, G., Hodgkinson, L., & Poade, D. (2008) Does British sociology count?
Sociology students’ attitudes toward quantitative methods. Sociology 42 1003-1021
 Scott Jones, J. & Goldring, J. E. (2014) Skills in Mathematics and Statistics in Sociology and
Tackling Transition. Higher Education Academy STEM Project: Skills in Mathematics and Statistics
in the Disciplines and Tackling Transition. York: HEA
 Ryan, M., Saunders, C., Rainsford, E., & Thompson, E. (2014) Improving research methods
teaching and learning in politics and international relations: A ‘reality show’ approach. Politics
 MacInnes, J. (2010) Proposals to Support and Improve the Teaching of Quantitative Research
Methods at Undergraduate Level in the UK [online] Swindon: ESRC. Retrieved November 21,
 Buckley, J., Brown, M., Thomson, S., Olsen, W. & Carter, J. (2015) Embedding quantitative skills
in the social science curriculum: case studies from Manchester. International Journal of Social
Research Methodology. 18(5) 495-510. Doi: 10.1080/13645579.2015.1062624
 Scott Jones, J. & Goldring, J.E. (2015) ‘I’m not a quants person’; Key strategies in building
competence and confidence in staff who teach quantitative research methods. International
Journal of Social Research Methodology 18(5) 479-494 Doi:
 Ralston, K. (2020). ‘Sociologists Shouldn’t Have to Study Statistics’: Epistemology and Anxiety of
Statistics in Sociology Students. Sociological Research Online, 25(2), 219–235.
 Nind, M., & Lewthwaite, S. (2018b) Methods that teach: developing pedagogic research
methods, developing pedagogy International Journal of Research & Method in Education 41
(4) 398-410 https://www.doi.org/10.1080/1743727X.2018.1427057
 Ferrie, J., Wain, M., Gallacher, S., et al (2022) Scoping the Skills Needs in the Social Sciences to Support Data-Driven Research with Technopolis, for the Economic and Social Research Council
 OECD (2020) Building Digital Workforce Capacity and Skills for Data-Intensive Science OECD
Science, Technology and Industry Policy Papers, No. 90, OECD Publishing,
 Barone, L., Williams, J. U Micklos, D. (2017) Unmet needs for analyzing biological big data: A
survey of 704 NSF principal investigators. PLOS Computational Biology 13 (11) e1005858