The main object of investigation shared by all PhD research projects in Human Sciences is the human experience, explored from the range of theoretical and methodological perspectives that are relevant to the three broad areas of Philosophy, Education and Psychology. The teaching plan utilizes the multidisciplinary competences of the members of the Doctoral Teaching Committee and numerous international collaborations. This wealth of contributions provides the PhD students with that combination of specialization and interdisciplinary vision they will need in dealing with the complexities of the contemporary world. The acquired competences are applicable both in basic research and in applied research in many contexts – educational, clinical, health, organizational – and in institutions responsible for socio-cultural policies.
The training programme consists of study and research activities, including lectures, seminars, and laboratories held by experts from Italian and foreign Universities. The teaching plan combines both interdisciplinary elements – intended to provide a high level of mastery in English and computer literacy and statistical skills – and the discipline-specific elements that provide the knowledge and research methodologies specific to the particular field of interest. The PhD programme also includes a period of training and research at a Host University abroad, for at least 12 months – consecutive or not – for students enrolled in the international Psychology curriculum (see below), and encourages joint thesis-supervision agreements.
The balance between the specificity of the individual disciplines and the interdisciplinary vision is ensured by the structure of the PhD course, divided into three curricula: Philosophy, Education and Psychology, which meet each other and "dialogue" within five interdisciplinary research areas:
1. Inclusive societies (gender and queer studies; multicultural and inclusive education). This research area includes theoretical and empirical studies of the ‘difference’ in terms of both gender and culture difference’. The first sub-area, focused on the various declinations of the categories of ‘gender’ and ‘sexual difference’, inserts a ‘sexed’ point of view into the analysis of the main theoretical and practical dilemmas of the human sciences. The second sub-area, focused on cultural differences and their relationships, uses intercultural pedagogy and didactics, and cross-cultural psychology to study the promotion of opportunities for multicultural coexistence.
2. Training and organizational dynamics (teacher education; personal development and wellbeing in organizational contexts). This research area is concerned with the interpretation of human behavior in organizational systems, that is, with those competences required to describe, assess, diagnose, and explain the main phenomena and psychological processes in organizations. The teacher education segment, in particular, focuses on how research on teaching practices can be used in teachers training.
3. Child development and educational practices (infant research; language acquisition and development; childhood education and care). This research area focuses on child developmental processes in their social contexts, particularly on interpersonal communication from the first months of life, language acquisition and educational practices that scaffold the child’s growth. The PhD students will undertake both basic research and applied research related to clinical and educational practices with typical, atypical and at risk populations (e.g., children with language delay and impairment, children of immigrant families, etc.), and educational research aimed at establishing and spreading best practice in nurseries, preschools and primary schools.
4. Theories and practices of care (phenomenology of care; caring in nursing; relationship philosophy; philosophy and psychoanalysis). In this research area the practices of care are investigated, theoretically and empirically. The investigations make use of conceptual and epistemological paradigms developed in the fields of moral philosophy, psychoanalysis, medicine and social psychology, and of qualitative and quantitative research developed in health and educational contexts.
5. Cognition and contemporaneity roots (body and cognition; visual studies; philosophy of music; critical theory of society and culture; genealogy of philosophical praxis). This research area embraces both cognitive science, studying the cognitive foundations of thought and sensory experience, and the philosophical perspective of visual studies applied to sensory/visual experience. The area also investigates the philosophical roots of contemporary cultures, in order to identify not only the influence exerted by specific thinkers and schools of thought, but also their significance for contemporary discussions.
The Psychology curriculum further offers an international doctoral programme in Cognitive Psychology and Linguistics in collaboration with Lund University (SE), international exchange programmes in Developmental and Educational Psychology-Language acquisition in collaboration with Ohio State University (USA) and the University of Colorado, Boulder (USA), and Work and Organizational Psychology in collaboration with the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven (BE) and Eindhoven University of Technology (NL).
Specific learning outcomes
At the end of the doctoral course in Human Sciences, PhD students will have acquired the following research competencies:
- Identifying the key sources for exploring a specific topic, and performing complete bibliographic searches
- Mapping the state of the art of a specific topic
- Identifying controversial issues
- Developing hermeneutical and critical text analysis
- Designing a research project in autonomous and original way, and accomplishing it
- Knowing and using different research methodologies, and selecting the most adequate according to the research project
- Knowing and using qualitative and quantitative techniques for collecting, coding, and analysing data, and selecting the most adequate according to the research project
- Evaluating limits and future perspectives of an accomplished research project
- Writing scientific reports, abstracts and papers based on research results
- Disseminating research results within the scientific community (presentations at conferences and workshops, papers in local and international scientific journals, chapters in volumes etc.)
- Applying research findings in educational, clinical, and organizational contexts, and in the development of social and cultural policies
- Taking advantage of the above mentioned competences to apply to local and international programmes for funding.