ESRA 2019 Programme at a Glance

Meeting the Challenges of Teaching Quantitative Research Methods 1

Session Organisers Ms Debbie Collins (University of Southampton, UK)
Dr Kevin Ralston (York St Johns University, UK)
TimeTuesday 16th July, 16:00 - 17:00
Room D18

The teaching and learning of quantitative social research methods (SRM) presents challenges to both teachers and learners. The subject matter is often considered 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). Moreover, in learning quantitative SRM ‘statistical anxiety’ is often cited as a barrier (Macher et al. 2015). In an attempt to develop quantitative methods teaching and pedagogic culture, we want to come together as teachers and learners to discuss the challenges of quantitative research methods and the approaches, strategies, tactics and tasks that we use to address them (Nind and Lewthwaite, 2018).
We welcome papers from those involved in the teaching and learning of quantitative methods in social sciences (and related disciplines), and those involved in pedagogic research on teaching and learning quantitative methods. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to the following:
• Principles and approaches that guide and inform your teaching and learning of quantitative research methods, and the strategies and tasks that you use
• Effectiveness and value of different tasks and strategies in facilitating quantitative SRM teaching and learning
• Demonstrating ways in which digital technology can support and or enhance quantitative SRM teaching and learning

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.
Macher, D., Papousek, I., Ruggeri, K., Paechter, M. (2015) Statistics anxiety and performance: blessings in disguise. Frontiers in Psychology 6
Nind, M. and Lewthwaite, S. (2018) ‘Methods that teach: Developing pedagogic research methods, developing pedagogy’, International Journal of Research and Method in Education. doi: 10.1080/1743727X.2018.1427057.

Keywords: quantitative social research methods; teaching and learning; pedagogic culture

Statistics Anxiety and Maths Anxiety, Key Messages, Comparing the Evidence and Examining the Literature

Dr Kevin Ralston (York St John University) - Presenting Author

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It is suggested that non-maths students typically react negatively to courses including statistical methods, and that statistics modules induce anxiety. This paper contrasts the empirical evidence of the relationship between statistics anxiety and course performance of students taking non-numerate degrees with the more general evidence around the influence of maths anxiety. This work compares the evidence that statistics anxiety and maths anxiety has a substantively negative influence on course/exam result. Key pedagogical messages from a review of these literatures are foregrounded. The evidence that statistics anxiety influences performance is limited, but the literature on maths anxiety is more comprehensive.

Active Learning in Survey Research Pedagogy: Strategies, Techniques, and Examples

Dr Chase Harrison (Harvard University) - Presenting Author

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Active Learning approaches refer to a series of teaching practices which emphasize experiences and activities. Studies, including randomized trials, have demonstrated the success of these approaches in learning, including retention, mastery, and enthusiasm, particularly in STEM fields. This paper discusses several of these strategies and presents practical examples of ways they have been successfully implemented in undergraduate and graduate survey research methods courses. Examples are drawn from undergraduate, applied masters, and research-oriented Ph.D. courses.

One of the most common Active Learning approaches is group learning. This paper discusses how group-learning has been successfully implemented in survey methods courses across a variety of levels. At an introductory level, instruction can be designed around student completion of a small group project. Students learn survey research by designing and conducting all stages of a survey research project, from problem definition through final analysis and reporting. Challenges and trade-offs include topic choices, group formation, diverse statistical backgrounds, measuring individual versus group effort and achievement, and balancing scientific rigor versus practical constraints. I discuss challenges, solutions, successes and failures.

Group approaches are also incorporated in individual lectures to successfully teach complex material. I discuss how small group-based activities are used to enhance lecture-based-instruction across a range of topics including research design, mode selection, sample design, question wording, question-order, non-response follow-up, and adaptive design. All approaches can be easily integrated into both large and small classroom settings without need for outside resources.

Active learning in survey methods can also be greatly enhanced when resources or circumstances permit students to work on actual ongoing survey projects with dedicated resources or budgets. I discuss approaches to this including building instruction around client-centered projects and building courses around student-driven research, including early, mid, and late-stage projects,

The First Encounter with Quantitative Research Methods

Dr Charlotte Brookfield (Cardiff University) - Presenting Author
Mrs Rima Saini (City University of London)
Dr Tina Haux (University of Kent )

In the UK there has been a longstanding lack of engagement with numeracy which can be traced back as far as the 1800s, when Babbage commented that UK was falling behind other countries with regard to mathematical ability (British Academy, 2012). More recently, it has been revealed that participation in mathematics at post-compulsory level is lower in the UK than most other developed countries (Hillman, 2014).

This rejection of number has become particularly apparent in the social science disciplines, where students have expressed surprise and reluctance at having to study quantitative approaches as part of their degree (Williams et al, 2008; Scott Jones and Goldring, 2014; Chamberlain et al., 2015). A number of initiatives have been implemented in an attempt to reverse students’ antipathy toward number (for instance; Carey et al., 2009; Falkingham et al., 2009). These initiatives have all had small successes, however, they have often had limited sustainability with only key members of academic staff being able to support them and students being financially incentivised. As a result, in 2011, the Nuffield Foundation, ESRC and HEFCE, in collaboration with 15 universities, launched the £19.5 million Q-Step project (Nuffield Foundation, 2012). It was deemed that such a large–scale programme was necessary, to bring about sustainable change to the quantitative research methods training of students.

In this paper, we reflect on lessons learnt at a recent postgraduate and early career Q-Step event. The aim of this event was to share lessons of best practice for helping social science undergraduates gain confidence when utilising quantitative approaches. This paper will reflect on the strategies that have been particularly beneficial in engaging students with such techniques. This includes student-led projects, buddy schemes and work placements. We will also address some of the challenges faced and conclude by sharing our top tips.