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Learning Enhancement and Development

Session 2G - Paper 1

An innovative practical approach to research methods teaching addressing the open-science debate.

Dr Heather Cleland Woods - University of Glasgow
Dr Helena Paterson - University of Glasgow
Dr Phil McAleer - University of Glasgow
Dr Dale Barr - University of Glasgow
Dr Niamh Stack - University of Glasgow

Development of our new practical curriculum addresses a need to balance the differing skills associated with becoming a researcher in a changing scientific landscape. We wish to share our experience of developing a multi-dimensional approach that facilitates the personal development of our level 1 undergraduates into responsible and effective researchers.

There has been considerable recent international debate about non-replication of findings in scientific fields (cf. Open Science Collaboration, 2015; Gilbert et al., 2016). This is paralleled with a report by the British Academy (2012/2016) which concluded that UK undergraduate social science students have lower levels of achievement in quantitative skills than their international counterparts. This has prompted many calls to action including emphasising the need to make improvements at a grassroots level by revising undergraduate training (cf. Button et al., 2016).  

Research methods training is a required element of many science and social science programmes; however, major challenges facing this training in HE are the high levels of statistics anxiety, low levels of statistics self-efficacy experienced by students and the negative impact that this has on learning, wellbeing and academic performance (Macher et al., 2013; Wrench et al., 2013).  As a consequence UK undergraduate provision has potentially been guilty of over-scaffolding learning which has had the unintended consequence of de-skilling students and fails to enable reflection on graduate attribute development. Our goal was to inspire students to rise to new challenges via enhanced learning, motivation and engagement, in turn maximising student inclusion and retention.   

We proactively addressed these issues by redesigning our core delivery of research methods training within the first year of our undergraduate psychology programme to ensure that our students have the necessary transferable skills to be both intelligent producers and consumers of research as well as confident, competent graduates.  In our presentation we will outline the comprehensive changes to the classroom and assessment that we made to introduce computational thinking and self-directed independent learning by using research-led teaching and the flipped classroom.  We will outline our implementation strategy with a class of >500 individuals, a 10-member teaching team and will report on resultant student confidence and competence.

Attendees will benefit from hearing of our experience of developing a new practical curriculum that adopts an innovative approach to teaching. The presentation will cover:

  • Skill development as a partnership between staff and students
  • Focus on independent and reflective learning
  • Staff skill development in new approach
  • Compilation of a student portfolio to facilitate skill development

Discussion would be expected to form around:

  • Assessment and feedback of this approach – what did we do?
  • Staff training and how did we change teaching perspective?
  • Are we challenging our students effectively?
  • Are we enabling our students to develop skills necessary to become a Psychologist?


Button, K. S., Lawrence, N. S., Chambers, C. D., & Munafo, M. R. (2016). Instilling scientific rigour at the grassroots. Psychologist, 29(3), 158-159.

Diener, E. & Biswas-Diener, R. (2016). The Replication Crisis in Psychology. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. DOI:nobaproject.com.

Gilbert, D. T., King, G., Pettigrew, S., & Wilson, T. D. (2016). Comment on "Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science". Science, 351(6277).

Open Science Collaboration (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 349.

Macher D., Paechter M., Papousek I., Ruggeri K., Freudenthaler H. H., Arendasy M. (2013). Statistics anxiety, state anxiety during an examination, and academic achievement. Br. J. Educ. Psychol. 83, 535–549.

Wrench, A., Garrett, R., King, S. (2013) Guessing where the goal posts are: managing health and well-being during the transition to university studies. Journal of Youth Studies, 16(6).