Presentation on theme: "Student Attitudes to Quantitative Methods Malcolm Williams, Liz Hodgkinson, Geoff Payne, Donna Poade, University of Plymouth Project funded by the ESRC."— Presentation transcript:
Student Attitudes to Quantitative Methods Malcolm Williams, Liz Hodgkinson, Geoff Payne, Donna Poade, University of Plymouth Project funded by the ESRC
The Study Survey of sociology and politics students across HEIs in England and Wales (n= 738). Focus groups in 4 institutions. Conducted November – March 2005/6 Aimed to provide a reliable and valid description of student perceptions of and attitudes towards quantitative methods in political science and sociology. Builds on previous study of sociology departments and teaching staff
All students in the sample had studied some quantitative methods by Stage 3 Just under 80% had studied statistics in some form. Quantitative secondary analysis and qualitative analysis probably being interpreted quite broadly.
Further analyses not shown here indicate: 50% of the sample found quantitative methods more difficult than qualitative, though 38% were unsure about which was the most difficult. Only 12% thought qualitative methods more difficult than quantitative. 66% of those who found quantitative methods more difficult also expressed anxiety about learning statistics. Although Im not necessarily bad at maths I just tend to panic when confronted with maths or what I consider to be maths
Student Experience of Research Methods. Summary: Some indication that students mostly regard quantitative methods as a necessary evil. Less than half of students enjoyed learning about surveys. 65% would rather write an essay than analyse data. A sizeable proportion have concern about their numeric ability and nearly half claim to have had a bad experience of maths at school. 76.6% of all those who had a bad experience of maths at school were anxious about statistics (not shown here).
Student Ability and attitude to quantitative methods
Higher UCAS tariff makes little difference to fails, but more likely to score a first. Those who enjoy learning about surveys get better marks, but also more likely to fail A bad school experience of maths produces generally lower marks as does anxiety about stats A negative attitude toward maths/ stats/ quantitative methods associated with lower marks Preconception that it is mathematical and therefore intimidating. Question: does stats success produce higher marks? Do brighter students cope better with harder quants?
Emphasis on importance of regular feedback and access to tutors and slightly less on class participation or access to on line materials. Access to online teach yourself materials and chance to actively engage in class less important More time should be taken to encourage students to embrace quantitative methodology
There is an implicit hierarchy of difficulty of techniques Group A: intuitively understandable topics requiring little arithmetic skill and to some extent largely visual (charts, means, frequencies, histograms)*: Group B: topics that require greater conceptualisation/logic and perhaps more confidence with number (correlation, hypothesis testing, sd): Group C: topics that form a more conventional core of basic stats techniques requiring more grasp of number and the internal logic of statistical reasoning (Chi-sq, Pearson's, V, t test, z test, rho, regression
Provisional Conclusions All students study some quantitative methods Less than 50% enjoy learning about quantitative methods and majority would rather write an essay Evidence of concern about number and bad experiences of number at school These latter associated with poorer marks as is a negative attitude to quantitative methods. Students value staff access and feedback Note that knowing statistics does not necessarily mean one is able to apply that abstract mathematical knowledge to sociological analysis.