ESRA 2019 Draft Programme at a Glance

Meeting the challenges of teaching quantitative research methods 2

Session Organisers Ms Debbie Collins (University of Southampton, UK)
Dr Kevin Ralston (York St Johns University, UK)
TimeWednesday 17th July, 14:00 - 15:00
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

Two Steps Forward, One (Q-)Step Back: Lessons from Five years of Embedding Quantification in the Social Science Curriculum

Dr Eric Harrison (City, University of London) - Presenting Author

In 2014, fifteen 'Q-Step' Centres were launched in the UK, with the aim of enhancing the level of quantitative proficiency (achieving a 'Step change') among undergraduates in a range of social science subjects. Varying approaches have been taken to the problem across different Centres. This paper reviews progress made after five years, drawing on the experience of delivering a Q-Step 'with QM' curriculum in my own institution. In particular the focus is on an introductory module 'Producing Social Data', which is largely survey methods oriented, and which experimented with a number of innovative (or at least less commonly used) features: two-hour hands-on data labs; a group survey project; the use of external speakers for mini-lectures. The paper describes the initial design of the module and charts its many iterations since the first presentation in 2015, and explains these in terms of a) growing student numbers, b) increasingly diverse disciplinary context, c) administrative obstacles, d) mixed reception from students, e) declining unit of resource and f) rising tutor burden. The paper concludes with some wider reflections on the problem. Why does the UK produce so few quantitative sociologists? Is it the quantification? Is it the sociology? And from where will we get the cohorts of 'social data scientists' the economy and civil society are crying out for?

Extending the boundaries of quantitative research methods pedagogy to create a community of scholars

Dr Fiona Chew (Syracuse University) - Presenting Author

Previous research (Nind & Lewthwaite, 2018; Wagner, Gardner & Kawluwich, 2011) described the paucity of research methods pedagogy and the need to build a pedagogical culture and much required corpus of research that systematically informs the teaching of research methods.

Key approaches to teaching and learning research methods included three goals: Active learning, experiential learning and students’ critical reflection about the conduct of research (Kilburn, Nind & Wiles (2014).

Approaches: This paper highlights three facets of teaching and learning research methods that have been assessed by graduate students in mass communication research methods courses as reinforcing their methodological grounding. These comprise the following:

Mastery of skill competencies. While a research method text provides the basic weekly content structure, key discussions consistently emphasize conceptualization and operationalization. After iterative attention is drawn by the teacher to published concepts with similar labels but varying operational definitions, learners begin to define concepts as variables with robust measurement validity. Likewise, mastering statistical application and index construction occurred.

Collaborative-guided research project. Learners assume leadership in a research project -- theorizing, conceptualization, instrument development, fieldwork, analysis and report writing. Concurrently, the teacher serves as a collaborative guide pointing to options unconsidered (eg subject recruitment approaches including Facebook ads and MTurk, subject parameters, sampling, fieldwork duration) and assists as a team member in obtaining funding sources and proposing alternatives and resources. This comprises a hybrid research partnership/apprenticeship for advanced learners.

Interdisciplinary pedagogical research. Collaborating with an education researcher provided in-depth observations of learner research processes and problem-solving strategies. It also revealed how learners integrated teacher comments in their report revisions. The learners’ research received high competitive evaluations and was presented at a blind-reviewed, major national conference.

Conclusion: Learners gained confidence in research methodology and constructive critique to improve research practice. They evolve into a community of