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Making Social Scientists Count

28 June 2013

A Cardiff team has attempted to revolutionise social science teaching in the UK to address the ‘quantitative deficit’ of students engaging with numbers and statistics.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and British Academy, the QUANT@C project (Quantitative Methods Teaching at Cardiff) hosted a series of international teaching and pedagogy workshops as part of the ESRC Research Development Initiative (RDI).

The workshops aimed to increase the number of quantitatively literate, competent and confident Social Science teachers in the UK and to improve the quality of quantitative methods (QM) teaching in the Social Sciences.

Harnessing the expertise of quantitative training in social sciences in North America and Europe, the workshops organised by the Cardiff School of Social Sciences (SOCSI) and the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD), brought in international speakers to ‘train the trainers’. 

For the first time, the workshop series provided a rare opportunity for existing research methods teachers and advanced PhD students in social science departments in the UK to see how other people teach statistics, discuss, debate and experiment different strategies in engaging learners; and to exchange innovative ideas of embedding quantitative methods in sociology, politics and other social science subjects.

Dr Sin Yi Cheung, Senior Lecturer at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, said: “Teaching quantitative methods to any undergraduate student is challenging enough as they often see it as ‘dry’, ‘dull’ and ‘irrelevant’. Engaging students in social science departments in the UK with numbers and statistics is even a bigger battle.

 “We have it so badly that some say we suffer a ‘quantitative deficit’ in UK social sciences and that we can’t count, compared to graduates in other European countries or North America.

“Cardiff University’s QUANT@C team has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to buck the trend and to bring about a small revolution in social science teaching in the UK.”

The four two-day workshops will culminate today (June 28th) with a final one-day conference at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, bringing together delegates from previous workshops to present the lessons learned and materials developed throughout the series. A panel of international speakers from Leuven, Utrecht Universities, and the US (Wisconsin-Madison and UCLA), will debate the pros and cons of different approaches. Professor Donald Treiman (UCLA) will discuss different models of quantitative training throughout the world and suggest a way forward.

For more information about the event, please visit: http://wiserd.ac.uk/research/current-projects/quantc/esrc-research-development-initiative-rdi/

The QUANT@C team includes Dr Sin Yi Cheung, Dr Luke Sloan and Professor Malcolm Williams. For further details of the project, visit: http://www.wiserd.ac.uk/research/current-projects/quantc/esrc-research-development-initiative-rdi/