The Inaugural Regional Postgraduate Q-Step Event
Wales and South-West Postgraduate Event Monday 19th October. Hosted by Cardiff University
Jennifer May Hampton (Hamptonjm1@cardiff.ac.uk)
Start date: October 2013
Research topic: The Nature of Quantitative Methods and Analysis in A-level Social Sciences
Research supervisor/s: Prof David James, Dr Luke Sloan
Supervising school: School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
Primary funding source: ESRC Studentship
Research pathway: Education
The project aims to set in context other research which has investigated the nature of under- and post-graduate quantitative method training, along with perceptions and practices of both students and teachers. Although a lot of research has been carried out at undergraduate level onwards, little attention has been given to the processes undertaken and perceptions being formed by students before they get to university. This project aims to discover if similar problems that are faced at undergraduate level, in terms of teaching and learning quantitative methods, are also found in A-level study.
This research primarily concerns the A-level curriculum. Following Prideaux’s (2003) conceptualisation of curriculum, this includes how such curriculum is planned (by Ofqual and the relevant exam boards), how it is delivered (by institutions and teachers) and how it is experienced (by students). The study will address whether there is disparity between how social sciences are portrayed to students and how they are documented in curriculum documentation. Another disparity may occur between said curriculum(s) and how teachers understand and interpret this, as indicated with their following pedagogical practices. These factors are important in the extent to which they, along with efforts to promote quantitative methods, affect the experiences and choices of students at higher levels of study.
To investigate the relationship between school and university curriculum, several different sources of information will have to be sought. The curriculum will have to be mapped, in terms of how it is officially documented by exam boards and content providers, such as the Welsh Joint Education Committee (who are supporting this research), along with how it is actually practiced. A-level students’ and teachers’ experiences, perceptions and practices will have to be sought, through a sample based on a cross-section of courses using both a large survey and case studies. Similarly the experiences, perceptions and practices of those teaching quantitative methods and analysis at first year undergraduate level will be sought.
Charlotte Brookfield (BrookfieldC@cardiff.ac.uk)
Start Date: October 2014
Research Topic: What does it add up to? The place of quantification in British sociology.
Research Supervisor/s: Prof Malcolm Williams and Dr Sin Yi Cheung
Supervising School: School of Social Sciences
Funding Source: Cardiff University
Research Pathway: Education
The project is informed by the development of the Q-Step programme and responses to the ‘crisis’ of number in the social sciences. It has been argued that British sociology is currently not fit for purpose in respect of social explanations and its ability to influence policy making. It is often viewed as inferior to other social science disciplines, such as economics. Many have attributed this to the failure to use or poor use of quantitative research methods and the lack of a scientific approach to research in the discipline (Payne and Williams, 2011). The ‘crisis’ of number in British sociology has led researchers to speculate about the subject’s purpose and future direction (Burgess and Bulmer, 1981; Payne, 2004, HEFCE, 2008; HEFCE, 2011).
The overall aim of the research, is to investigate the problem of a national sociology, in this case, the UK and its ability and potential to use formal methods of analysis to explain aggregate social phenomena. The study will explore the characteristics ascribed to British sociology by its practitioners and will consider whether the discipline is able to effectively investigate contemporary social issues at both the macro and micro level. Whilst the study is primarily concerned with British sociology, a comparative element, with that of the sociology of two other countries will be built into the study.
An initial scoping exercise, in the form of an online survey, will explore professional sociologists’ attitudes to the discipline and methods. The survey will hopefully enable some initial exploration and discussion of the mechanisms that are leading to students’ lack of engagement with quantitative skills within British sociology. Additionally, secondary analysis of existing datasets on sociology students’ attitudes and level of engagement with quantitative skills will be conducted in order to understand the full extent of students’ resistance to number work. The analysis of the data derived from the online survey and the existing datasets will direct the research and reveal potential comparator countries for further research into the lessons British sociology can learn from practice in other countries.