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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Undergraduate Course: The future of our university: an interdisciplinary experiment in cooperative learning (SCIL08014)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryTaking the university as field site for enquiry, this interdisciplinary two-semester course will study and experiment with cooperative learning approaches. Participants'
evolving questions and concerns will be the starting point: possibilities include debt, democracy, sustainability and health/well-being. The course will involve project-based learning, with students and staff deciding on the specific thematic fields of enquiry, while also considering theoretical perspectives on these fields. Participants in the course will identify and work on group projects using diverse forms of research and will present their findings to the university community.

Course description The university sector is undergoing fundamental shifts due to such phenomena as massification, marketization and globalization/internationalization. While the social effects of universities have been extensively studied, as institutions they have received less attention, although this is now changing. This course will use the university, including this one, as fieldsite to investigate interconnected theoretical and substantive issues such as changing conditions of work, growing student debt, pedagogy and curriculum, legacies of colonialism, democracy and governance, sustainability, health and wellbeing. The course is based in sociology, but adopts an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on a range of other disciplines including politics, education, history, economics, geography, creativity, art practice and the sciences.
The course will adopt a cooperative approach to learning involving staff and students learning together. At the beginning of the course, students and staff will decide how to structure the course, and some class time will be devoted to deliberating the ongoing workings of the course. The first weeks will be devoted to initial readings on the university as an institution, methods of critical enquiry and identifying themes for the group work. Each group will then be responsible for identifying a set of readings, workshops or other appropriate and multi-modal learning activities, and leading sessions on their chosen theme. Groups composed of staff and students will engage in project-based learning on the theme they have identified. All students and staff involved will also produce reflective papers on the process of the course, to encourage critical engagement with the course aims, methods and content, and also inform future courses with a similar learning approach. At the conclusion of the course, a curated exhibition/exposition of the work produced will be prepared to generate a creative dialogue with the university community about its outcomes. A publicly accessible report on the experience of the course itself will be also included in multimedia format.

Given that most 20 credit courses run in only one semester, taking this course will mean that a student will have a heavier course load in one semester of the year they take it, so should consider how to balance their workload over the year. Students who take this course should be prepared to lead their own learning and to be involved in a significant amount of autonomous study, both independently and with the group(s) they join. The course will likely generate extra curricular activities as well. Students who are prepared to make these extra commitments will be part of an exciting process of creating alternative ways of learning in our university.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesOnly visiting students who are present for the whole year can take the course.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2018/19, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  50
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 40, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 156 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 100% participation
Details of what full participation would entail to be agreed between staff and students in the first three weeks of the course, with clear criteria to be established at that point and posted on Learn.
Participation may include:
2 reflective papers on the course process and learning, one at the end of each semester
A group project to be presented at the end of the course
Participation in seminar hours
Group preparation for and facilitation of one or more sessions on the theme that group is working on

Feedback Each group will receive regular formative feedback on their project as it develops from other course members.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the substantive and theoretical themes related to the university as a social, political and economic institution
  2. Identify routes towards achieving specific learning outcomes through cooperative and project-based learning
  3. Implement skills in facilitating and participating in democratic deliberation and consensus building as an essential part of group-led working practices
  4. Present research findings in a variety of forms, written, verbal and creative
  5. Use a range of skills to plan and execute a research project on a theme related to the university
Reading List
Collini, Stefan. 2012. What Are Universities For? London: Penguin.
Freire, Paulo. 2010. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Holmwood, John. 2011. A Manifesto for the Public University. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Radical Education Workbook, available at:
Thornton, Margaret. 2014. Through a Glass Darkly: The Neoliberal University and the Social Sciences. Acton, ACT: ANU Press.
Winn, Joss, Richard Hall, and Camilla Erskine. 2017. Mass Intellectuality and Democratic Leadership in Higher Education. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course students should have strengthened their skills in:

identifying how to go about researching a phenomenon of interest - compiling evidence and using this to develop an analysis and critique of this phenomenon
presenting information effectively in a variety of formats
working cooperatively and effectively as part of smaller and larger groups
facilitating and engaging in deliberative processes

Special Arrangements This course is available to 1st and 2nd year students, however honours students may take the course for extra credit
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Sophia Woodman
Tel: (0131 6)51 4745
Course secretaryMs Siobhan Carroll
Tel: (0131 6)50 3079
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