Raising the number of young people pursuing quantitative skills post-16
Too many students do not have the quantitative skills they need for HE and/or the workplace.
It is estimated that over 200,000 students leave school to embark on an HE course for which they are not fully prepared. It is left to HE to address the deficit.
Writing in the Times Higher Education Supplement Professor Ian Diamond vice chancellor of the University of Aberdeen and convenor of a high level group on quantitative skills, deplored the large numbers of students leaving higher education without adequate preparation either for further academic work or for work. Among other effects, ‘this leads to a persistent, negative cycle: recent international reviews of political science and sociology have noted the relative scarcity of top-class quantitative skills in the UK’.
The British Academy, convenor of the high level group, issued a position statement announcing a new initiative to boost undergraduate access to quantitative skills, co funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
getstats has been working with the British Academy, the ESRC, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and the Nuffield Foundation on how to improve quantitative education, especially after the age of 18. In 2011, two roundtable meetings looked at the quantitative skills needed on first degree Social Science and STEM (sciences, technology, engineering and maths) programmes and the challenges faced by universities (and students) because those skills are so often not developed in school. To find out more, read the Social Sciences and the STEM roundtable meeting reports (and note how similar the issues around quantitative skills are for each community!).
The British Academy convened an international conference on March 26 to look at the debate on statistical literacy in different countries and ask whether social science and humanities teachers in the UK might learn from approaches to quantitative methods in the US and elsewhere in Europe.
getstats is working with universities, learned societies and exam boards to turn things around: developing alternative ‘pathways’ which equip 16-19 year olds with the statistical understanding, know-how and skills they need for further study and the workplace and boosting the quantitative content of social sciences and humanities first degree courses.
Simply Statistics is one of those useful, catch-all sites that, magpie like, seizes on posts and material of interest to the editors – on teaching and presenting statistics, on data gathering and processing and so on. Its founders are ‘three biostatistics professors (Jeff Leek, Roger Peng, and Rafa Irizarry) who are fired up about the new era where data are abundant and statisticians are scientists’.
Methods in research
Loughborough University is hosting a conference next year on teaching quantitative research methods to sociology and criminology students. Visualization and teaching quant research methods to sociology and criminology students Martyn Chamberlain (J.M.Chamberlain@lboro.ac.uk) has further details
Methodspace is the ‘home of the research methods community’ where themes are discussed and questions asked and answered.
John Hall is a veteran social researcher who maintains a wide network and whose website is a useful source for everything SPSS related.
Cass (Courses in Applied Social Surveys) is a programme of short courses covering survey design, data collection and analysis, aimed at academic social scientists as well as researchers in government, market research and the voluntary sector. Cass is part of the Economic & Social Research Council’s National Centre for Research Methods.
The Applied Quantitative Methods Network (AQMeN), based at the University of Edinburgh, is a network of people who have a shared interest in quantitative methods and who wish to refresh their existing knowledge or learn a range of new skills. The Network is led by a group of academics from eight of the Scottish Universities and its activities are aimed primarily at Scottish postgraduate students and academics of all levels. We also encourage quantitative researchers from other sectors, such as local and central government and voluntary organisations, and academics based outside Scotland to join.
Malcolm Williams of Cardiff University strikes a positive note as he describes new approaches to teaching quantitative methods – and some stats – to undergraduates in the social sciences
Inspiring teaching and learning
Building confidence so students can learn, value and use statistics in tackling life’s issues…
The RSS Centre for Statistical Education (RSSCSE): the RSSCSE aims ‘to promote the improvement of statistical education, training and understanding at all ages’. The RSSCSE’s ‘AtSchool’ series: CensusAtSchool International, ExperimentsAtSchool, SportAtschool and others, alongside active participation in the BBC News School Report represent a small part of the Centre’s services and support for teachers and learners.
Advice for teachers of statistics can be found here Teaching_mathematics_and_statistics.
Follow the debate about the role of statistics and quantitative methods in the social sciences. In the US some economists are far from modest about their mathematical and methodological equipment, relative to the other social sciences.
Here are social sciences resources for schools, put together by the Economic & Social Research Council.
Some fantastic work is being done in visualizing data. Examples inlude Benjamin Hennig at the University of Sheffield, a specialist in spatial visualization http://www.viewsoftheworld.net/
Measuring the quality of school provision and test/exam results
The British Academy has just published the above guide. Written by Professor Harvey Goldstein FBA, it provides a health warning around school league tables, what they tell us and what they don’t tell us. Through using this guide, head teachers and school governors should feel emboldened to point out some of the drawbacks of school league tables to avoid misleading interpretations by parents, the press and the wider public.
The guide is based on the report ‘Measuring Success’ that was written by Professor Goldstein and Beth Foley and published by the British Academy’s Policy Centre in March 2012
Schools, students and stats
The latest survey of Scottish schools shows primary school pupils did better at data and analysis and chance and uncertainty than they thought they did. Data handling skills are stronger at this level than – in later school years – dealing with chance and uncertainty.
Here’s a lively American presentation of how to put over data and statistics related to the census
Statistics poster competition
During the International Year of Statistics ‘Statistics 2013, the International Statistical Literacy Project is running a schools poster competition – getstats is one of the organisations supporting the competition. The competition aimed at helping students in two categories: aged 11-15 and 16-18 years, to gain more insight into Agriculture through data. The deadline for submission of posters is: 15 March 2013.