Quantitative Skills Teaching and Learning Symposium - Beyond ‘don’t want to teach, don’t want to learn’

A recap of our symposium on quantitative skills teaching and learning

The event: A symposium jointly hosted by the Nuffield Foundation and the British Academy

Where and when: At the British Academy, London on 25 June 2018

The focus: Teaching and learning experiences from the Q-Step Programme focusing on developing quantitative/data skills in the social sciences

In attendance: Staff and students from Q-Step Centres and Affiliates plus others with expertise and/or interest in the development of quantitative/data skills

Recap of what happened:       

  • Todd Hartman of the Sheffield Methods Institute offered insight and the benefit of his own experience of learning how to use R and then teaching students how to use it too

  • Paul Foss of National Numeracy shared some startling evidence about numeracy levels in the UK, including among social science undergraduates

  • Alan Marshall of Edinburgh Q-Step Centre provided some practical and highly transferable tips for engaging and motivating students while developing their statistical literacy

  • Jackie Carter of Manchester Q-Step Centre provided an uplifting description of the positive impact of a strong programme of student placements/internships

  • Erik Larsen of Kent Q-Step Centre shared analysis of the positive impact of Q-Step on student attainment at University of Kent

  • Julie Scott Jones of Manchester Metropolitan University Q-Step Centre provided a detailed account of the reality of overcoming often significant challenges in order to build a successful programme developing quantitative skills

  • Jackie Carter (University of Manchester), Tina Haux (University of Kent), Todd Landman (University of Nottingham), and Travis Coan (University of Exeter) were panellists in a session chaired by John MacInnes (University of Edinburgh). The panel considered questions looking at the formation and history of the Q-Step programme; the possible directions Q-Step might take in future; the rise of the internship/placement element in developing data skills and increasing employability; and pedagogy in Q-Step and the social sciences, and the ways in which academics can best be incentivised and rewarded for helping to positively transform this

  • Q-Step students and graduates presented posters showcasing their research

Some key points to note:    

  • A highly developed understanding of effective quantitative skills pedagogy is emerging based on experience and experimentation

  • There are indications that teaching quantitative skills is having a positive impact on student attainment and confidence.  We hope that in due course our external evaluation of the Q-Step Programme will provide some evidence to support this

  • Placements/internships are proving to be increasingly popular and also an effective means of developing students’ employability and increasing their direct access to career opportunities

  • There is increasing interest in the possibility of longer placements, perhaps even offering year-long opportunities

  • Across the UK there is still a significant lack of data and numerical skills

  • There are strong examples of students on Q-Step programmes producing very high quality research, including on placement

  • There is growing interest in finding suitable ways to recognise the improved pedagogy, advanced skills and additional expertise that Q-Step academics bring to programmes

  • It is important to increase engagement with schools and further education in order to raise awareness of quantitative options in higher education and also to start developing data skills earlier