“Thanks for Teaching Me Methods”

A former student just made my week, maybe my month. I hadn’t seen him since he graduated, with a double-major in political science and communications, two or three years ago, but he walked into my office unannounced and said, “I just wanted to thank you.”

“For what?”

“For teaching me methods and taking me to that political science conference. It was so helpful when I was working on my master’s.”

Awesome. I think methods is my most important class, but the hardest sell for students who find the shift to empirical analysis difficult. It’s great to get some positive feedback on occasion.

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About James Hanley

James Hanley is Associate Professor of Political Science at Adrian College and a Fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. The views expressed here do not reflect the views of either organization.
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10 Responses to “Thanks for Teaching Me Methods”

  1. Pinky says:

    I get the idea you’re a good teacher. After all, anyone who gets kicked out of American Creation by the likes of TVK has got to be good at something significant.

  2. Methods should be a general requirement for all majors.

  3. Dr X says:

    Methods in political science is …? Research/experimental?

  4. Dr X says:

    Kind of related, any of you familiar with the Fox Effect bias in student evals of teachers? It’s disheartening.

    http://drx.typepad.com/psychotherapyblog/2013/01/the-dr-fox-effect-bias-in-student-evaluations-of-professors.html

  5. Dr X says:

    As one commenter noted, the same thing happens in other areas of life.

  6. Matty says:

    I was hoping the Doctor Fox effect was about students thinking Neil Fox is medically qualified.

  7. James Hanley says:

    Pinky,
    I’ve had more than my share of run-ins with him, but he never kicked me off American Creation that I know of.

  8. James Hanley says:

    Dr. X,

    I cover a gamut of SoSci methods. I begin with the very basics (types of variables, levels of measurement, sampling, etc), and then give them an overview of observational designs, including brief discussion of experimental research, document analysis, survey research, and then introduce them to statistical software (SPSS). It’s necessarily not dramatically in-depth in any specific method, but it introduces them to the range of methods in the discipline (well, not formal theory) and gets them thinking in methodological terms instead of just normative terms.

    Since most of them won’t go on to become political scientists, I emphasize 1) being able to read the news and analyze information better (does that study seem valid, does that talking head have any basis for that empirical claim) and 2) survey methods, because there’s a multitude of careers where that could come in handy, including political surveying firms, social service agencies, and market research.

    Sorry for the slow reply–a virus had me on my ass all last week.

  9. Dr X says:

    Thanks, James. Hope you’re feeling well this week. Flu, perhaps? I was out for four days last week.

  10. James Hanley says:

    Some general virus that saps all your energy and makes everything hurt (when your hair hurts, you know something’s wrong). It lasted about 6 days. My wife, unfortunately, had that, felt better for about half a day, then came down with what seems to be a real-for-sure flu–4 days in a row of fever now. This has been one of our worst bouts with winter viruses. I hope you’re feeling better now, too.

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