I am contemplating a heresy is sociology teaching: a "Research Methods" class aimed at educating consumers, rather than producers, of sociological research.
(I mean, of course, consumers of research - people who read statistics in the newspapers, for example - not consumers of commodities.)
This fall I will be teaching "Research Methods" for the first time. I have been able to avoid this task for so long because my excellent colleague has borne that duty. Alas, she is moving on.
I have always been skeptical of a free-standing methods class. Looking at methods textbooks and beginning statistics texts confirms my sense that studying methods at a distance from a real problem that you are researching is impossibly dry.
On the other hand, I am a firm believer that half the job of teaching is helping students become culturally literate about what they should already know, and discerning consumers of what new knowledge they meet in the future.
So I have been thinking about teaching "Research Methods" aimed primarily at understanding the research that others have done and are trying to persuade us with. This applies to classic studies as well as to the avalanche of election statistics flowing over us.
We would, of course, do some actual number crunching to get the hang of it. I am thinking of giving each student a year of the General Social Survey to answer questions with.
But I would welcome your help in thinking about what a consumer-oriented research methods class would look like.