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BA/BSc (Honours) in Combined Social Sciences - Learning Outcomes

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Educational aims

This is a broad based interdisciplinary social sciences degree. Your studies will:

  • develop your expertise in a range of social sciences subjects (sociology, economics/financial services, psychology, politics/government, geography, social policy and criminology)
  • enable you to apply the distinctive knowledge, evidence and methods of the social sciences in order to assess and analyse contemporary social issues and problems
  • increase your understanding of how social, economic and political forces and decision-making structure people’s lives, in their communities, personal and family lives and workplaces
  • equip you with a range of valuable professional and practical skills that you can articulate to employers, and will enhance your career prospects
  • develop your capacity to be independent, self-evaluative, and creative as a learner and in workplace and other non-academic environments
  • prepare you for further learning at a higher level.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed your degree you will have knowledge and understanding of:

  • a diverse range of theoretical debates and explanatory concepts within social science, including current research and scholarship, some of which are interdisciplinary and some within specialist subjects or disciplines of study
  • the key dimensions of social diversity, social differences and inequality and an awareness of their impact on the lives of individuals and groups; consequently a grasp of the scale of different social, individual, institutional and structural entities
  • the significance of the different methods of social science subjects in explaining how societies are ordered, governed and subject to social change
  • how the social sciences explain and evaluate real world issues of ethical, social, political, policy, and public concern and their impact on institutions and the world at large
  • the ethical and political dimensions of social research and the value positions of social sciences knowledge. 

Cognitive skills

When you have completed this degree you will be able to:

  • evaluate a range of research methods, types of data collection and techniques of analysis typical of the social sciences showing awareness of the contrasting explanations they can support
  • carry out a piece of personal research using informed social sciences arguments, relevant theories, methods, and evidence and that indicates the complexity inherent in the subject or topic
  • select and synthesise evidence, information and arguments from a diversity of sources including publications informed by recent research developments in a particular subject
  • recognise the contested aspects of knowledge and the potential uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of knowledge in a specific subject area.

Practical and/or professional skills

When you have completed this degree you will be able to:

  • produce work that is confident and purposeful, based on your own ideas, demonstrating creativity and your own voice
  • recognise, record and articulate the value and diverse range of your skills and knowledge (e.g. the selection and evaluation of suitable evidence from sources materials, skills of critical analysis, working effectively in a group context, effective communication and use of ICT) and link them to the achievement of your personal and/or career goals
  • use relevant knowledge and skills to engage critically with a range of problems and issues relating to your workplace or to other non-academic contexts
  • work without constant direction, to assess a task and make plans across a whole programme of work that uses your time strategically
  • adapt your working methods and monitor your progress as a consequence of engaging with the views of others, and be able to adapt to unpredictable circumstances.

Key skills

When you have completed this degree you will be able to:

  • retrieve and synthesise a diverse range of relevant social sciences evidence, original and raw texts and data, independently identified
  • confidently select and manipulate a wide range of ICT applications/tools to search information and data, interact electronically and work in a collaborative or group environment
  • present written information and knowledge in essays and other formats to suit a range of audiences/users that set out a logical, coherent, substantiated and persuasive argument
  • use and apply a range of numerical, graphical and/or statistical materials, as part of an argument, acknowledging their complexity and the range of interpretations they can be used to support.

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

Knowledge and understanding are acquired in a number of different ways. Through its range of modules the qualification provides published distance learning materials, study guides and module companions, assignment and project guides. Learning is also organised via a range of multimedia material (through DVD and interactive online activities such as self-assessment questions and interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)), directed readings (especially at Level 1 and Level 2), substantial original texts (Level 2 and Level 3), and through feedback on assignments. Assessment is, in the majority of cases, via tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and end-of-module assessment (EMA) or examination.

Structured online discussion forums moderated by tutors and module team members will support your learning and reflection upon your learning.

Cognitive skills are built up through the levels of the qualification and are taught and assessed through TMAs and end-of-module assessment. Assessment tasks include essays, reports, policy analysis, newspaper and other artefactual analysis, web-based exercises, research and literature evaluation. Cognitive skills progress from developing a critical understanding and an understanding of academic procedures and methods at Level 1, through to an ability to compare and contrast at Level 2, and at Level 3 to fully synthesise a diversity of complex and multi-sourced materials.

Key skills are developed and demonstrated at the different levels of the qualification.

At Level 1 there is considerable emphasis on reading, writing and note-taking skills and this is reflected in the study materials, assessment strategies and tutor feedback on assignments. Reflective learning is built into Level 1 modules in order to support your awareness of how you are learning and how you can improve your attainment of key academic skills by best use of the resources around you. At Level 1, you are also introduced to a range of ICT skills.

At Levels 2 and 3 skills become more advanced. More complex skills of interpretation, critical judgement, selection and synthesis are required. At Level 2, independent learning is firmly embedded: you will be encouraged and rewarded to search for and deploy information, within contexts defined by the module team. Understanding and working with a range of sources and different kinds of evidence at Level 2 will develop key analytic and evaluative skills.

At Level 3, assessment is designed to develop and demonstrate full independent learning though a range of more challenging and self-directed assessment tasks, which might include a project, policy analysis, reports and an extended essay/double TMA. At this level, you are expected to research and select your own materials and information using online and web-based materials to answer a particular problem.

Practical and professional skills are taught and assessed throughout the qualification and employability and transferrable skills are delivered through reflective learning, which is a key part of Level 1 modules. But it is at Level 2 and Level 3 that these skills are developed more explicitly in relation to your journey towards your personal and work/career goals. Tools such as personal development planning and tailored careers service input will be an essential part of your studies, and will be built into the compulsory Level 2 module. Assessment formats will be diverse and apart from those listed above, you can expect to learn from assessments using collaborative and peer team work, wikis, blogs, Powerpoint presentations – all of which are designed to deliver particular transferable skills.

At Levels 2 and 3 practical and professional skills are emphasised in a number of ways depending on your choice of modules. For example, some modules and subjects will place an emphasis on the application of theory to policy and practice, or will develop your ability to critically evaluate the use of research methodologies in policy or research documents. Skills of independent study, identifying and retrieving sources that are not pre-selected in the module are a key aspect of the skills acquired in the degree and the compulsory Level 2 module will develop your capacity to be an independent and creative learner in this way.

The compulsory Level 2 module will allow you to engage with the world of work and other contexts beyond academic settings, by applying your knowledge and skills to particular work or work-related or organisational problems and processes.

The modules use a range of assessment tools and you will be exposed to the idea that there are different formats for the presentation of argument and evidence depending on audience and institutional setting, such as reports, presentations and team presentations, as well as essays.

Support is provided by tutors and other OU staff, and there are also resources such as the social sciences subject website and other programme and University support that will actively used with the modules to enhance wider engagement with the subjects studied.

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