27.07.2018 • Pilar
The Berlin Summer School in Social Sciences is a two-week summer school that takes place at Humboldt University and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. This year,in its 8th edition, the summer school is running from the 16th to the 26th of July and has a focus on “linking theory and empirical research”. This year, about 60 students are attending the summer school, the majority of which are PhD students and a few Master students. In this blog post, I will give you a glimpse of what my experience during the first week of the summer school was like.
The structure of this summer school is really unlike any other that I have been to, in a very good way! Let me explain why. During the first week, the focus was on methodologies, and there were four sessions of lectures with the following themes: “epistemological implications of methodological paradigms”, “causation and explanation in the social sciences”, “concepts as building blocks of theories”, as well as “linking micro and macro perspectives”. Each day we had a session of lectures, in which two lecturers who have different or contrasting perspectives on theories would give a talk. Each professor had 45 minutes to give his or her talk, after each talk 10 minutes was given to the other lecturer to make a critique, then another 10 minutes for the professor to respond to the critique. The structure of these lectures really helped us to understand the methodology/theory that was being taught, as well as the critiques and challenges or limitations they involve.
After the session of lectures each day, the students were divided into four different groups in smaller classrooms for the “seminars”. In this part of the day, the groups, which were led by a moderator, had the possibility and were encouraged to debate or raise questions on the lectures that were given. This lasted for about an hour and followed a lunch break. Returning from the lunch break, the students were divided again for the “workshop”, but this time into two parallel groups. In this workshop session, each group had the opportunity to ask questions that were raised during the seminars to the lecturers themselves.
Extra activities included in the event were a wonderful addition to the summer school. An example is the poster session that occured on the very first day. All students had to prepare and print beforehand a poster to present their research projects to other participants. This gave us a chance to talk about our own projects and also to get to hear what other students are working on. Other extra activities included a welcome cocktail on the first day and an informal get-together at a beer garden on the second day, which were both optional. These optional activities were great in that they provided us with an opportunity to do networking and exchange ideas with other colleagues. Finally, my favorite extra activity of the week was the “individual consultation”. Prior to going to the summer school we were asked to choose one of the professors, who were giving lectures during the first week, for a one-on-one consultation. In this 20-minute consultation, students had the opportunity to ask questions, recommendations, and discuss challenges that they are facing in their research with the lecturer.