This project led by Professor Stephen Gorard and Professor Carole Torgerson from Durham University, will show Quantitative Methods (QM) trainers how to encourage social science undergraduates in many subject areas to engage with, use and re-use numeric evidence both wisely and appropriately.
The project has assembled a team of international design experts to work with a large number of undergraduate social science methods trainers in eight major UK universities (Universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Leicester, Manchester, Nottingham, Warwick and York, and experts from US Northwestern University). Together they will all prepare template course materials that link research designs to methods of quantitative data collection and analysis, and adapt these templates for use in their own subject areas. In this way, research design can be embedded in the teaching of undergraduate quantitative methods, through provision of training for current and future providers. The renewed emphasis on design at the outset of a study, currently rather neglected in UK researcher development, will have a number of immediate and longer-term benefits. It discourages schismic thinking among undergraduates since designs are largely independent of specific methods of data collection. It encourages true prediction and forethought in collecting data for new studies. It encourages the correct choice of methods of analysis for data that have already been collected. Above all, it holds the promise of simplifying analysis to such an extent that undergraduates may not even be aware that they are, in fact, working with ‘quantitative’ methods.
Although the focus will be on undergraduate teaching, the team will build into their programme of events a progression from introductory through intermediate and to advanced training in order to up-skill Quantitative Methods teachers in the embedding of design at all levels. This will enable a step-change in teaching at undergraduate level and even beyond. The work programme of up-skilling of research methods trainers includes the creation of support and curricular materials tailored to all relevant areas, sustained collaborative development of materials and approaches, and delivery of intensive clinics UK-wide. The materials will be trialled in practice in social science undergraduate teaching among the seven higher education institutions involved, and ideally more widely by the end of the project.