Wednesday, 12 February 2014

A departmental debate about research methods teaching

This house believes that research methods teaching in psychology fundamentally inhibits scientific creativity.

The close alignment of research methods with a finite array of statistical approaches prevents problem led exploration and invention of methods.  Whilst methodological traditions can produce bodies of work they also run the risk of narrowing focus and missing crucial phenomena and possible explanations.  In an ideal world first year students would develop a question during lab classes and then develop a method to answer it, and an accompanying analysis strategy.  This would enable them to directly encounter limitations and difficulties and to understand the mechanics of the process.  It would also stretch their theoretical muscles.  There is only so much about behaviour that can be learnt through the deployment of a two-way ANOVA or a self-report questionnaire and there is no reason to see such methods as foundational to understanding in the behavioural sciences.  As a consequence we must revise our teaching and consider the ethics of engaging other organisms in limited research.

Tom Dickins

Please send your arguments for or against this proposition to the blog using the Comment function.

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