PSY309 Qualitative Research Methods is a compulsory subject (online and on 3 campuses with around 170 students each year), which psychology students take at the end of their Bachelor degree. The subject has an innovative design where students access qualitative data related to the research question ‘what does psychology offer community?’

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What’s important about this learning and teaching story?

The design of the subject allows students to learn about research while they are engaging in concrete research activities and completing a real research project. The topic of the project is a topic which challenges them to think differently and critically about the profession. The design of the research also allows for substantial academic dissemination of findings.

What were you trying to achieve?

We wanted to:

  • Challenge students to think critically about psychology
  • Create an enriched learning space for them to learn very difficult concepts via experience
  • Create data in the subject that can be used as data for dissemination and research activity
  • Design a subject which has multiple values for all members

What did it look like?

The teaching staff interviewed key and varied informants globally – some were leading international scholars in critical and community psychology; some were national and local Australian psychologists; some were community experts who had a perspective on psychology. The ‘Data Bank’ of the project is a rich and diverse qualitative data set which includes these interviews and a set of publicly available materials (such as videos and policy, all submitted by the students), all which answer the original question in different ways.  Students have to decide on a research question (e.g. what does psychology offer rural Australian communities), a subset of the data to use and the methodological approach they are going to take.  They are supported to produce a research proposal and a research report as assessments

How can I make this happen?

Subjects, research methods subjects in particular, can be designed to allow students to experience the research process in concrete ways (in a supportive environment) and to experience being researchers. When the topics they research are directly relevant to them and invite them to think critically about profession, institutional systems, social systems or cultural issues, the experience is more engaging and challenging. The research needs to be designed in a way which challenges but is not too overwhelming and scaffolds students learning. It needs to have CSU ethical approval, and it likely needs to be something that can be done in a classroom/online learning environment.