ESRA 2017 Programme

Tuesday 18th July      Wednesday 19th July      Thursday 20th July      Friday 21th July     

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Friday 21st July, 09:00 - 10:30 Room: N AUD5

The teaching and learning survey research methods: developing pedagogy

Chair Ms Debbie Collins (University of Southampton )
Coordinator 1Dr Sarah Lewthwaite (University of Southampton)
Coordinator 2Professor Melanie Nind (University of Southampton)

Session Details

The teaching and learning of social research methods (SRM) plays an important role in developing capacity and ensuring that social scientists continue to possess the knowledge, skills and expertise to explore and address complex issues. Yet SRM teaching and learning is challenging: the subject matter is often difficult and students have to learn to engage in sophisticated decision-making, such as being able to weigh up the pros and cons of particular methods, techniques and designs (Kilburn et al, 2014). Teaching and learning can take place in different settings but is generally facilitated by more experienced research practitioners who pass on knowledge, share skills and induct team members in the usage of different survey research methods. Yet this training and capacity building is frequently a taken-for-granted element, receiving scant attention or left to trial and error (Earley, 2014). The aim of this session is to, as Garner et al (2009) propose, promote and develop a pedagogic culture in which ‘the exchange of ideas’ can take place, to deepen understanding of methods teaching and learning.
We welcome papers from those engaged in the teaching and learning of social research methods or in pedagogic research on its teaching and learning. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to the following.
• Principles and approaches that guide and inform your teaching and learning of research methods, and the strategies and tasks that you use
• Effectiveness and value of different tasks and strategies in facilitating SRM teaching and learning
• Demonstrating ways in which digital technology can support and or enhance SRM teaching and learning
• Whether MOOCs or other online SRM courses require a different pedagogical approach and if so what this looks like

Earley, M. (2014). A synthesis of the literature on research methods education. Teaching in Higher Education, 19, 242–253.

Garner, M., Wagner, C. and Kawulich, B. eds., (2009). Teaching research methods in the social sciences. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. P2.

Kilburn, D., Nind, M., & Wiles, R. (2014). Learning as researchers and teachers: The development of a pedagogical culture for social science research methods? British Journal of Educational Studies, 62, 191–207.

Paper Details

1. Teaching Surveys Methods: Classroom Experiences Among University Instructors
Dr Wojciech Jablonski (Utrecht University & University of Lodz)

A thorough literature review shows that the range of publications on survey-specific skills training is rather limited. Most existing studies focus on teaching research methods in general, and, as a result, may deal with other (non-survey) quantitative techniques or with qualitative methods. Our study aimed to determine to what extent university instructors address different survey-related topics in their curricula and check their opinions about the amount of information that should be presented to university students in their coursework.
The presentation outlines the selected results of the study conducted in August and September 2015 among instructors of survey methods who were employed in Polish universities with sociology faculties. A total of 112 academics (out of 251 invitations sent) agreed to complete our web-based questionnaire. 73 instructors declared they had, in the previous three academic years, taught at least one such class (undergraduate or graduate) addressing survey-related issues to sociology students. Those respondents were invited to complete the core part of the questionnaire, which included questions about web surveys, nonresponse, and big data.
The results provide an insight into practices of university instructors teaching survey methods. They might stimulate discussion on the current practices concerning professional training of future survey researchers. The results can also be the stimuli to develop pedagogical standards regulating the methodological knowledge that should be obtained while survey methods university training.

2. Pedagogical Challenges in Training Survey Methodologists
Professor Frederick Conrad (University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research)

In 2000, AAPOR gave the Mitovsky Innovator Award to Bob Groves “for leadership in establishing survey methodology as a recognized academic field.” This was largely granted because of the 1992 creation of the Joint Program in Survey Methodology, housed at the University of Maryland in the US, which led to the creation of the Michigan Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Michigan in 2002. The two programs act as one virtual program sharing most instruction by video, with instructional faculty jointly appointed to both universities. This talk will review some of the challenges of training MS and PhD students in Survey Methodology as well as some of what we have learned in delivering this training for nearly 25 years. The talk will also report on our recent foray into global instruction with MOOCs.

The talk will review the following issues and how we have responded:

• Survey Methodology is an interdisciplinary field. Students cannot be fully trained in all of the component disciplines (e.g., statistics, psychology, data science, human-computer interaction) but need to know enough to understand how to apply concepts and techniques from these disciplines to survey methods problems. What is the right tradeoff between depth and breadth across these disciplines? Is it the same for MS and PhD students, and for students with different career goals?

• What is the right balance of practical and theoretical perspectives? Which should come first in the curriculum sequence?

• Survey Methodology as an academic field is driven in many ways by the survey research industry; in some cases survey organizations pay for the training so it needs to help solve real and immediate problems. But how can we assure that students are thinking flexibly and have skills to address problems that the industry has not yet encountered so that they can contribute long term?

• The days of traditional sample surveys may be limited due to cost, low response rates, and the availability of other cheaper and more quickly created data sources, e.g., social media content, transaction records, sensor data. How do we acknowledge the existence of other data sources and provide training about their use despite knowing relatively little about their quality, especially representativeness?

• MOOCs make it possible to provide instruction in survey methodology globally. How should the training be adapted for the mostly one-way instruction that is typical of MOOCs where learners view video-lectures but are not to directly interact with instructors? Is peer-grading a realistic model for tasks like evaluating the design of a questionnaire or sample, or is direct contact with experts essential?

• Because training in Survey Methodology is not available at the undergraduate level (at least as a major, at least in the US) recruiting promising students is challenging, especially when a recruitment goal is to increase diversity. What steps increase awareness of the field among potential applicants who have not already worked in the industry, especially across a diverse set of backgrounds?

3. A frameworks approach to teaching survey research methods
Mr Ray Poynter (The Future Place)

The use of frameworks in survey research design has been promoted as a method of facilitating a systematic approach to survey research and analysis (The Art and Science, of Interpreting Market Research Evidence, Smith & Fletcher, Wiley, 2004). This paper shows how the use of a frameworks approach can assist learners in simultaneously assessing overall design issues and the specifics of good research techniques.

Too often, survey research methods is taught as a collection of standalone concepts, rather than as an integrated whole. A frameworks approach provides the learner with a structure for learning, and a structure for determining the right solution for a specific research problem. Frameworks can provide a method of assessing what is needed, what is possible and of achieving the best way of delivering both – or finding the best compromise when what is possible cannot match what was needed, within the constraints of the project.

The framework that will be highlighted in this paper includes:
• Problem scoping and framing
• Linking the problem to existing knowledge and beliefs
• Designing a research approach
o Looking at the strengths and limitations of different technique
o Assessing the time and cost implications of different options
o Optimising the research design
o Using a two-way linkage analysis between the questionnaire and the research objectives/questions
o Methods of pre-testing and checking research components before fielding them
• Monitoring the fieldwork to maximise quality
• Creating an analysis strategy

The paper draws on experience gained in working with universities, corporations and trade bodies. This approach to frameworks also underpinned the The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research (Wiley, 2010) and The Handbook of Mobile Market Research (Wiley, 2014).