Embedding QM in Social Science Teaching

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Social Sciences


This project investigates how quantitative methods (QM) can be embedded into substantive subject modules in undergraduate sociology. Hitherto most social science research methods have been taught in dedicated methods modules. Whilst a number of pedagogic techniques are used to enhance the effectiveness of teaching, these modules are often seen by students as necessary, but disconnected from substantive subject modules.  

The research aims to test whether embedding QM produces a more relevant link between theory, evidence and analysis.The research will take place at Cardiff University and Plymouth University and will use a quasi experimental methodology, whereby a second level module from each university will be chosen as an ‘experimental’ group and those students in the year cohort not taking these modules will constitute the ‘control’ group.

Students in both the experimental and control groups will be surveyed on their views and experience of QM both before the modules commence and at their end and the results over time and between groups will be compared. Additionally students in the experimental groups will undertake a voluntary and anonymised ‘quiz’ at the beginning and end of the modules in order to asses their prior and post module knowledge of QM techniques and analysis

Planned Impact

The impact of embedding quantitative methods in substantive modules may result in:

- a massive sea-change in how we teach methods in Social Science, leading to a more scientific approach to theory and evidence
- improvement of undergraduate statistical literacy levels, increasing employability and the number of possible career pathways for graduates
- a higher level of engagement with data, leading to more evidence-based substantive work
- better visibility of high quality secondary datasets, drawn upon both for the development of teaching materials and for student assessments
- a package of 'tried and tested' skeleton material for embedding quantitative methods available to the wider academic community

The thematic 'package' will be an open educational resource, which will become a wider repository for materials on equality and diversity that can be accessed through online archives (such as ReStore). These materials will thus be available to all academics across the UK. These resources will be reviewed by The Royal Statistical Society Centre for Statistical Education (RSSCSE), located at the University of Plymouth, to ensure that they address the currently low levels of statistical literacy and are suitable preparation for the range of careers that graduate Social Scientists may choose to enter. A member of the RSSCSE (Neville Davies - CV attached) would sit in a consultancy role on the steering group for this project.

Dissemination activities are key to sustainability impact and we have chosen a strategy that will maximise the exposure of our work to the wider academic audience. This strategy will consistent of awareness raising events and dissemination of the project materials and findings including workshop/paper presentations at the ESRC Research Methods Festival 2012, Methods@Plymouth 2013, and the ESRC Research Methods Festival 2014. In addition the project will include formal dissemination events in the format of one-day workshops possibly held at the RSS in London and Cardiff University where we will encourage feedback from other Social Scientists with the intention ensuring that our materials can be easily adopted by other UK HEIs.

We anticipate using the materials developed in this project as the basis for one of the workshops Cardiff is proposing to run as part of a parallel RDI bid, whilst the pedagogic experience of the RDI will help and influence the development of the final package of materials from this project. The purpose of the RDI bid is to foster an international pedagogic community of academics who teach quantitative methods (or would like to) and would provide an excellent platform for sharing the good practice developed through this project.


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Description This research used a quasi experiment to test whether an enhanced quantitative curriculum produced more positive attitudes toward quantitative methods in undergraduate students. The experimental group, in two universities, used materials embedded in a substantive module. Student attitudes in the experimental and control group were measured before and after the experiment. Results did not show clear evidence of more positivity in the experimental group, though there was evidence of a more realistic appraisal of quantitative methods in the experimental group and some evidence of enhanced ability.
Exploitation Route We have shared our findings with the Q-Step community as several events and at Cardiff and now other universities embedding is being further practiced. A further publication has been revised and we await a final decision.
Sectors Education