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Social Science Lab (Bachelor year 1)



This course explores how science, society and self can address the broader and deeper challenges of the day. We approach the social sciences as a fascinating and continuously evolving discipline, a creative space for new thinking and new practice.

The course reflects on the need to consciously and strategically align science, society, and self to solve complex and interwoven problems. We examine questions such as: What are the theoretical implications of major contemporary trends, such as climate change and growing inequality? How can the social sciences enhance our capacity to interpret and navigate in the world? How does the social sciences touch upon my everyday life, and is thereby personal?

The first part of the course invites us to reflect on how we relate to ourselves and others. We embrace confusion as a first step in learning something new. We recognize our own biases. By listening deeply and speaking responsibly, we transform disempowering conversations. We explore how compassion can guide us, and what happens when compassion is absent.

The second part of the course provides us the opportunity to address issues related to wellbeing at Leiden University. Various professionals present their perspective to unpack the complexity of this challenge. We experiment with templates and tools to simultaneously solve problems, shift systems and create new patterns sourced from what we deeply care about.

The third part of the course reflects on social scientific principles. We transcend silos by integrating knowledge from several disciplines, and discuss the opportunities and challenges that come with interdisciplinarity. We proceed by discussing another principle, one that has increasingly been recognized as an important criterion for thoughtful social science: reflexivity. In the final session, we connect all ideas covered during the course into a coherent whole.

Course objectives

Through this course, we strive to achieve that students are able to:

  • explain the interdependent relationship between science, society and self

  • reflect on how science, society, and self can address complex challenges

  • dialogue, reflect, and collaborate in an interdisciplinary context

  • work with templates and tools for ethical and strategic leadership

Course material

The material for this course comprises articles, book chapters, and movies. We engage with diverse social scientific texts, ranging from pedagogy, psychology, philosophy of science and sociology literatures as well as transformation, feminist, and post-colonial scholarship.

Mode of instruction

Students are expected to invest approximately 140 hours for this 5 ECTS course by:

  • Attending 9 sessions (participation is mandatory) – 24 hours

  • Engaging meaningfully with the course material – 76 hours

  • Working on the individual reflective assignments – 20 hours

  • Design a response to a challenge at the university – 8 hours

  • Working on the synthesizing, argumentative essay – 12 hours

Assessment methods

Assessment includes 4 individual assignments, 2 group assignments, and 1 individual essay.

4 Individual assignments (pass/fail)
Prior to the plenary sessions, students answer reflective questions about the course material and themselves to enhance the transformative potential of the plenary sessions.

2 Group assignments (pass/fail)
During the course, students are placed in an interdisciplinary think and do tank. The think and do tanks submit a report that summarizes reflection on bias and leadership. The think and do tanks also design an integrated response to issues related to wellbeing at Leiden University.

1 Individual essay (pass/fail)
For the final session, students write an argumentative essay in which they answer the following question: How can science, society, and self address the broader and deeper challenges of the day? Students present their argument to receive feedback for growth.


The English language is used during the sessions. Group assignments must be submitted in English. Individual assignments may be submitted in English or Dutch. If students prefer to be placed in a Dutch speaking think and do tank, we can make this work.


The skills predominantly covered in this course are shown in bold:

Researching Collaborating Reflecting
Analysing Oral Communication Independent learning
Generating solutions Written communication Resilience
Project-based working Presenting
Digital skills Societal awareness


The sessions start at 18:00 and the session on Providing Feedback (04-06-2023) is optional.

Date Time Location Tentative programme
27-02-2024 18:00 - 20:30 Leiden Embracing confusion
05-03-2024 18:00 - 20:30 The Hague Recognizing bias
12-03-2024 18:00 - 20:30 Leiden Listening deeply
26-03-2024 18:00 - 20:30 Leiden Being compassionate
02-04-2024 18:00 - 20:30 The Hague Designing differently
16-04-2024 18:00 - 20:30 Leiden Transcending silos
30-04-2024 18:00 - 20:30 Leiden Practicing reflexivity
07-05-2024 18:00 - 20:30 The Hague Speaking up
28-05-2024 18:00 - 20:30 Leiden Synthesizing knowledge
04-06-2024 18:00 - 20:30 The Hague Providing feedback (optional)

Admission requirements

This orientation course is mandatory for students that start with the FSW Honours College track Science, Society and Self in the second semester of their first academic year. This course welcomes students from all disciplines and all walks of life.


Students do not need to register for this course. Registration is automatic when participation in the Science, Society and Self track is confirmed by email.

Contact information

If you have any questions, please contact the course coordinator at