The Teacher

Embedding Transferable Skills and Enhancing Student Learning in a Political Science Research Methods Module: Evidence from the United Kingdom

Alistair Clarka1

a1 Queens University, Belfast


U.K. government policy is placing a heavy emphasis on “essential” and “employability” skills in an effort to help individuals cope with changing social and economic circumstances. Delivery of these skills falls to a range of education providers. This is a particular difficulty for university lecturers who teach non-vocational students who are increasingly concerned about their ability to compete in the job market after graduation. Transferable skills are therefore a key issue in student learning and support in U.K. political science, as well as other disciplines. Through assessment of one U.K.-based political science research methods module, this article suggests effective group-based ways of embedding such skills for political science students in a way that puts the student, and not the teacher, at the center of the learning process. These ideas are confirmed by survey evidence. In particular, student group research projects underline the idea that instructors should go beyond the classroom to help students apply theory. Importantly for both U.K.- and non-U.K.-based lecturers, the assertion can now also be extended to include transferable skills in addition to learning and applying theory.

(Online publication January 14 2011)

Alistair Clark is a lecturer in political science at Queen's University, Belfast, UK. His research interests include the comparative study of political parties, party organization, electoral politics, and political participation, with particular interests in how parties organize themselves at the local level to engage with the electorate and the effect that party activity has on electoral outcomes. He is currently completing a book entitled Political Parties in the UK, to be published in 2012. He can be reached at


I would like to thank Sydney Elliott, who co-taught the module with me in 2008 and 2009, and Yvonne Galligan, who initially highlighted concerns with hands-on data skills.