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Title: Igniting the statistical spark in the social sciences
Author: Jones, Rhys
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2018
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Several investigations have concluded that there is a quantitative deficit within the social sciences in the UK (Fonow and Cook, 1991; Lincoln and Denzin, 2003; Payne et al., 2004; Williams, et al., 2008; MacInnes, 2009; Platt, 2012; Payne, 2014; Williams et al., 2015). Reasons for this are potentially rooted within the societal negative attitudes towards mathematics. Societal negative attitudes towards mathematics could be a product of the traditional teaching approaches of mathematics education. In particular, teaching methods have potentially contributed to the subject identity as being right or wrong, perceived as a difficult discipline (Porkess, 2013; Donaldson, 2015). Significant changes have been made to mathematics education (years 7-13) more recently to encourage greater student uptake post-16, within England and Wales (Porkess, 2013; Donaldson, 2015). Statistics has gained an increasingly important voice within mathematics education. Statistics also cuts across many disciplines, becoming a core subject. In addition, employers are increasingly requesting employees acquire data analysis skills, underpinned by statistical and scientific principles. In relation to the quantitative deficit, the Q-Step initiative was created across 15 British universities to develop a range of undergraduate social science degree courses to improve quantitative methods skills. The Q-Step centre within Cardiff University invested in the development of a range of school and further education activities, to highlight the importance of these quantitative skills. The development of a QCF level 3 course in Social Analytics (investigation of social processes using statistical analysis and techniques) involved the creation of the Pilot Scheme in Social Analytics (SA). This course was developed with a group of secondary school teachers and FE lecturers, delivered over a series of 21 weeks to a mixture of year 12 and 13 students in Cardiff in 2014/15 (44 students) and 2015/16 (29 students). To investigate the effectiveness of the Pilot Scheme in SA, a series of research questions were developed. A quasi-experimental design was used to operationalise these research questions to measure the impacts on student attitudes and attainment in statistics (in year 12 and 13) on an experimental group who received a contextualised statistics course in 2015/16 (Pilot Scheme in SA), compared to two control groups. Results suggest the course did lead to changes in the students’ attitudes, becoming more positive. In addition, their statistical abilities also seem to have improved, in comparison to the two control groups. Although the positive impacts of the course are somewhat tentative, and in places it is difficult to make unequivocal inferences, there is no evidence to suggest the course had a negative impact on the experimental group. In comparison, students in both control groups who didn’t receive the treatment, showed negative differences in their attitudes and abilities with respect to mathematics and statistics. In light of the findings and discussion, recommendations have been made with reference to professional practice and also future research. These include expanding the Pilot Scheme in SA to be made available for more schools in Wales and developing teacher training support to deliver these courses.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: H Social Sciences (General)