Teaching Social Sciences through students' biographies: new pedagogies for the 'oppressed' or oppresssive technologies of the self

Monica McLean, Andrea Abbas

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


This collection of papers provides a rare theoretical and empirical exploration of the potential and perils of using biographical methods to teach students sociology-related social sciences. The authors’ interest in investigating and theorising biographical methods arose as a result of their personal experiences as students, teachers and researchers.The genesis of the collection was a day conference at the University of Nottingham. The Biographical Methods Day was held on Thursday 24 September 2009 at the University of Nottingham, in association with C-SAP and the SRHE Student Experience Network organised by members of the teamof the ESRC-funded Pedagogic Quality and Inequality in University First Degrees project, which is a mixed method project that systematically and critically explores how to evaluate the quality of undergraduate degrees in different universities in socially-just ways (see http://www.pedagogicequality.ac.uk/ for further details). The aim of the day was collaboration with potential lecturer and student users of the project findings. The focus of discussion was the notion of ‘quality’ in relation to the trend of using student biographies in the teaching of university sociology (McLean and Abbas, 2009 McLean M. and A. Abbas (2009). “The biographical turm in university sociology teaching: a Bernsteinian analysis.” Teaching in Higher Education 14(5): 529-539.[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], [Google Scholar]). The concrete outcome is this collection intended to contribute to arguments about whether, in Bernstein’s (2000) terms, biographical methods are a recontextualisation of ‘pure’ sociology which disadvantages some students or whether, on the contrary, it gives all students access to powerful knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages50
JournalEnhancing Learning in the Social Sciences (ELiSS)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2011


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