Intensive enquiry based learning in the Social Sciences: What works? What’s next?

Ellis Saxey, Teaching and Learning Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science


GROUPS is an optional intensive two-week project at the end of the summer term, facilitated by LSE’s Teaching and Learning Centre. Undergraduate students from across the social sciences are placed in cross-year groups with a supervisor. Each group devises their own research project: choosing the topic, research question and methodology, carrying it out and writing it up. Students
present their papers at a conference on the final Friday.

At present, GROUPS has enormously positive feedback from participants (c.80 each year). The enquiry based learning means students are active participants in knowledge production. GROUPS builds research skills in a more holistic, less ‘recipe book’ fashion. LSE TLC are creating a toolkit in 2018 so other institutions can adopt or adapt the GROUPS model. We are particularly interested in whether the model could transfer to the Arts, Humanities and Natural Sciences.

But we are aware of gaps in the project:

  • Groups work with social science methodologies on issues of public concern, but tend to have little public engagement. The tight timescale means limited opportunity to co-create a research question with communities/organisations, or creatively communicate findings back to research subjects.
  • Although several student groups choose to make contact with relevant academics, engagement with LSE research experts is currently optional.
  • The skills and knowledge that students develop aren’t fed back systematically into students’ formal study.

Attendees’ experience and suggestions would be sought in the post-paper discussion.

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