Research Perspectives at the Faculty for Applied Social Sciences
Knowledge for Progress in Society
The faculty is engaged in a wide variety of research activities dedicated to the sustainable further development of society. Undergraduate students can already gain experience in research and advance their expertise in the research-oriented Master’s degree program. Doctoral dissertations can be written under several members of the faculty and in cooperation with various foreign and domestic universities.
Diversity, Life Stages, Media, Politics, and the Profession...
... the research perspectives at the Faculty for Applied Social Sciences
The model of research perspectives that was jointly developed by the faculty accounts for the heterogeneity of our research activity, while at the same time highlighting core reference points and connections. It emphasizes the fact that Social Work and society can be viewed and investigated from multiple viewpoints. Individual research projects can incorporate more than one of these perspectives. They are not mutually exclusive, but rather intersect and overlap in various ways. As a structured network, the research perspectives form a basis for approaching current topics and challenges and addressing them from multiple viewpoints.
Research Perspectives on Social Work and Society
Social Work is closely tied to the ever-changing realities of society and therefore requires constant research in order to fulfill its tasks. Research in the field of Social Work addresses social issues and educational challenges as well as their perception and treatment by social workers in their respective institutional, political, and societal contexts. It generates knowledge that serves the development of theoretical and practical approaches and the improvement of daily practice in Social Work.
The broad spectrum of research activities at the Faculty for Applied Social Sciences at TH Köln/University of Applied Sciences reflects the different fields of activity in Social Work as well as the constructive collaboration of various disciplines. Building upon their theories and methods, we look at the practical and theoretical expertise of social work professionals, the conditions surrounding their work, and all agents involved in the process – especially the beneficiaries of social work.
The individual research perspectives at the faculty intersect and overlap in many ways. Only this type of interconnected multi-perspective research enables us to grasp the many changes in society, identify the resulting challenges for social work, and develop new plans for action.
All contexts of society are characterized by a pluralization of circumstances and orientations in life. In this context, diversity has two central meanings. On the one hand, it is a core concept for any social diagnoses of the times that focus on constructs of social difference and equality and their meaning for discourse, norms, and practice. On the other hand, diversity, just as the concept of inclusion, is linked to socio-political ideals and action plans devised by politics, institutions, and social organizations as a response to this pluralization.
Diversity research investigates the resources and potential of diversity and plurality, placing different focal points on specific lines of differentiation. It also focuses on a fundamental reflection of power structures and habits of attribution, which often provoke discrimination. This serves to address questions regarding the individual and collective experience of diversity as well as the real-world opportunities and obstructions for participation in all areas of life. Research in this area thus aims at analyzing, contextualizing, and developing normative goals, organizational and societal frameworks, and political approaches of a pluralistic society. Diversity research also develops, creates, and criticizes concrete ideals, interventions, concepts, and methods of Social Work as specific forms of how diversity and difference are addressed in professional and reflective settings.
Research on the topic of social work in the context of lifetime and life worlds relates to the everyday practice and methods, and the institutionalization and transitions of the relationship between private, social, and public spaces as well as formal and non-formal education. It examines the fields of action for Social Work and education in all stages of life – during early childhood, in families, non-formal education of youths and adults, and for working with senior citizens. Points of special focus include social inequality, mediatization, migration, gender, and inclusion. Possibilities and limitations of social and political participation are examined with regards to different spaces and stages of life, aiming to identify options and develop concepts.
People’s lives and experiences are closely connected to the media and their underlying digital infrastructure. As platforms for communication and culture, media are an important key to social and cultural participation and a means for achieving educational goals (communication, articulation, media competence). However, they also construe realities and influence world views. Digital infrastructure also opens new paths of collecting and evaluating data. Questions about the meaning of media – and especially digital media in this day and age – for processes of socialization, education, employment, and participation, and the communicational culture of a society are becoming more and more significant for the goals and tasks of Social Work. In this area, research aims to identify potentials, challenges, and risks of communication in mediatized worlds and of digitally enhanced activities in social work, and to develop options for adapting educational, vocational, and organizational processes.
The human rights perspective and the realization of social rights are at the center of the political research perspective. Research topics include the legal and political frameworks of Social Work as well as political discourses and processes involved in the passing and reforming of laws, measures, and enforcement practices. On the one hand, this field is about human rights as a frame of reference for professional activity, the effects of individual regulations on certain target groups of Social Work, and their ethical and socio-political evaluation. On the other hand, it investigates the actions of public administration and Social Work in its role as a political agent.
The (social) space in which the practical and political aspects of Social Work take place is one of the core categories of the political research perspective. Possibilities for political participation of Social Work and ways of democratizing political decision-making are investigated alongside questions of empowering the beneficiaries of social work.
How does professional activity in Social Work take shape? This is one of the questions addressed by the professional research perspective. This field investigates the theoretical and practical expertise of Social Workers in organizational, (socio-)political, and societal contexts, as well as their relation to the beneficiaries of Social Work and other involved parties (such as relatives, volunteers, and representatives of other professional fields). Possible lines of inquiry are how political and domain-specific principles (such as inclusion or participation) and action plans are addressed in practice, and what normative or other underlying principles apply to the profession. Further questions arise about the professionalization of Social Work, looking at biographical processes of emerging professionality on the one hand and historical processes of professionalization in Social Work on the other. Not least, opportunities and challenges of further professionalization and/or the implementation of professionality against the background of current societal and political shifts are analyzed.
Research activity at the Faculty for Applied Social Sciences is mostly organized into research units. In each research unit, several professors and their research assistants work continuously on their respective topics and collaborate with other universities as well as partners from the professional world. The research units are:
- Educational Spaces During Childhood and in the Family
- Digital Technologies and Social Services
- Media Worlds
- Migration and Intercultural Skills
- Non-Formal Education
- Social • Space• Management (until June 2019)
In addition, the university’s interdisciplinary competence platform on Migration, Intercultural Education and Organizational Development brings experts in this particular field together and fosters interdisciplinary exchange and the collaboration between various agents and institutions within and beyond the university.
Research thrives on exchanges between different groups and individuals. In developing, improving, and implementing its research strategy, the Faculty of Applied Social Sciences relies on the expertise and experience of its researchers. Matters of content and research management are addressed on a regular basis in various communicative settings among colleagues:
The research conference continuously develops and improves the research strategy and oversees its implementation. It also serves as a platform for internal exchange on matters of research policy and mutual updates on current developments.
The research forum provides a space for presenting current or recently completed research projects for collaborative reflection on topical and methodical and methodological matters.
Regular informal meetings (the “Forschungsstammtisch”) at a pub foster less formal exchange. Anything of interest to participants with regards to research can be a topic here.
The pro-dean for research is responsible for developing and implementing the faculty’s research strategy and chairs the research conference.
The faculty maintains its own Research Service Center, which provides administrative support to researchers. In close collaboration with the respective offices of the university’s administration, it assists researchers in every phase of initiating and executing research projects.