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Gendering the European Parliament

The Self-Experiment as a Novel Method for Introducing Public Sociology in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Political Participation
Social Movements
Mixed Methods
Political Activism
Sabrina Zajak
German Institute for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM)
Ines Gottschalk
Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Sabrina Zajak
German Institute for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM)

Since Michael Burawoys’ presidential address (2004) the meaning and relevance of public sociology in social and political science is highly debated (e.g. Nölke 2017). Still, public sociology is rarely meaningfully applied in university courses. This presentation suggests, if taken serious as reflexive collective knowledge production of general relevance, a great and underexplored potential for students to go beyond the “teaching and learning” paradigm. We propose a novel method, we call participatory self- experiment, which borrows insights form public sociology and participatory action research. It strongly stresses the collective and reflexive co-production of knowledge through living practices. Students, together with the teacher and practitioners, develop an innovative research strategy exploring social practices (e.g. civic engagement, sustainable living), by introducing those new practices into their own lives and systematically documenting (research diary) and collectively discussing experiences made and knowledge created. Taking the example of a course on civic engagement, the collective reflections made over a period of three month, reveal deep learning effects of the students and a meaningful public output in terms of transformative social change in the actions and practices of students and their environments, which cannot simply be obtained by interviews or participant observations. Our contribution, however, also points out challenges and limitations using this approach in an university teaching environment, which is still limited by hierarchical structures, limiting the possibilities of co-constitution of knowledge through participatory self-experiments.
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