The Relevance of Deweyan Inquiry to Teaching Social Science Research Methods
Shane J. Ralston
Pennsylvania State University - Hazleton
APSA 2010 Teaching & Learning Conference Paper
In this paper, my goal is to persuade social scientists, and particularly political scientists, that Dewey’s firm commitment to empiricism in the social sciences provides some valuable clues for how to more effectively teach social science research methods. First, I present a fairly orthodox way of teaching social science research methods. Then, attention is drawn to a collection of instances in which commentators have mistaken Dewey’s endorsement of intelligent inquiry in the social sciences for a defense of scientism. I demonstrate that upon closer examination of Dewey’s own writings, empiricism, not scientism, emerges as the central feature of pragmatic social inquiry. Sharing this feature of Deweyan inquiry in the classroom can enhance our students’ understanding and appreciation of the limits and possibilities of doing social science research. Several specific suggestions for teaching research methods emerge from a close reading of Dewey’s works on social and scientific inquiry, Patricia Shields’s essay “Pragmatism as a Philosophy of Science” and James Scott Johnston’s recent book Deweyan Inquiry.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 26
Keywords: John Dewey, research, social science, pedagogy
JEL Classification: Z00
Date posted: November 24, 2009 ; Last revised: October 26, 2010
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