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THE 2020 FESTIVAL OF SOCIAL SCIENCE
DIGITAL-FIRST EVENT 7-15 NOV 2020
FoSS and ESRC logos

Can social science help us change the education system from within?

07th November 2020 12.00-14.00
Other

About this event

What can a book about a small undergraduate programme tell us about using social science for educational change? Can social science offer a set of tools for greater understanding, which helps us identify practical ways of transforming educational approaches?

The new BA Social Sciences programme at King’s College London (launched in 2019) is trying to live out a set of principles and practices not commonly found in mainstream education. These include: a commitment to forms of direct democratic decision-making open to both students and staff, an emphasis on social science for social justice, alternative assessment practices, and a focus on small-group, ‘engaged’ approaches to teaching and learning. About a month into the academic year it began to dawn on our new community: you only get to do something for the first time once. And time was slipping through our fingers. Although many of the programme’s approaches are by no means unique, we felt we were learning a great deal about the realities of trying to ‘do things differently’ within a relatively conventional educational space. We decided to document our journey - both its successes and pitfalls - through a collaborative research project run by students and staff. Our hope was that, by turning a critical lens back on our community, we could gain greater understanding of what we have done so far, how we have done it, and what we’re up against if we want to do it better. Although the team initially envisaged writing a small internal report, the project grew and we have ended up co-writing a full-length book based (due to be published in December)

Although focused on a specific undergraduate programme, our research journey led us to grapple with issues and questions which are integral to all debates about the priorities, purpose, and possible futures of education. These included questions around the role of participatory democracy, what it means to create meaningful partnerships between students and staff, how to build a community based on mutual respect, care and accountability, how students and staff can work to challenge and descontrust structures of marginalisation in the institutions they are part of, and the role - and limits - of ‘freedom of speech’ in the classroom.

Join us for a panel discussion and Q&A with members of the research team as we explore the way social science research can help us to identify ‘what matters’ in education, and how the project helped us make sense of our own experiences as students and staff - to identify priorities, illuminate challenges, and transform our understanding of education practice.