Advertisement

Overcoming Statistics Anxiety: Towards the Incorporation of Quantitative Methods in Non-Methodological Courses

Abstract

Opposing the increasing importance of quantitative data in society is the observation that many students in the social sciences have a fear of quantitative methods. To ensure math-averse students acquire the necessary quantitative skills, we propose a curriculum-based approach whereby a Learning Trajectory of Quantitative Methods (LTQM) is integrated in the non-methodological courses of the programme. A structured integration of such methods can ensure repeated exposure to applications of such methods in a context of their interests. Moreover, the use of a learning trajectory enables students to encounter ‘learning activities’ with gradual increasing complexity providing stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks. This article describes the LTQM and discusses both lecturer and student experiences with the proposed innovation thereby providing an in-depth assessment of the benefits and challenges with the integration of a curriculum-wide learning trajectory.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 131

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Notes

  1. 1.

    As will be clear from the testimonies, this final – yet crucial – step was not always executed thoroughly.

  2. 2.

    For more information see the project’s website: http://soc.kuleuven.be/epos.

  3. 3.

    The cited heterogeneity among students is largely due to the different programmes from which students can enrol in the course (e.g., law or history students have different methodological backgrounds).

  4. 4.

    The reason why these seminars were organised for ‘Political Sociology’ is because the statistical component in this course constitutes a major part of the course content and is quite complex. While the political science students are actually quite well prepared for this (the course is situated in the third undergraduate year, so material from the first and second undergraduate year methods courses is still quite fresh), enrolment is also allowed by students who have not had the same methodological preparation. This reinforces the quantitative literacy gap in the student group extensively.

  5. 5.

    Several participating lecturers also teach other courses at our university and are exploring options to include more quantitative material in these courses.

  6. 6.

    These exercises were: the democracy exercise from ‘Comparative Politics’, the Frieden exercise from ‘External Dimensions of EU Policies’ and the Ikenberry assignment from ‘International Political Economy’. Detailed information about these LAs can be found on the project’s website.

References

  1. Adeney, K. and Carey, S. (2009) ‘Contextualising the teaching of statistics in political science’, Politics 29 (3): 193–200.

  2. Adeney, K. and Carey, S. (2011) ‘How to Teach the Reluctant and Terrified to Love Statistics: The Importance of Context in Teaching Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences’, in G. Payne and M. Williams (eds.) Teaching Quantitative Methods: Getting the Basics Right, London: Sage Publication, pp. 85–98.

  3. Andersen, K. and Harsell, D.M. (2005) ‘Assessing the impact of a quantitative skills course for undergraduates’, Journal of Political Science Education 1 (1): 17–27.

  4. Atkinson, M.P., Czaja, R.F. and Brewster, Z.B. (2006) ‘Integrating sociological research into large introductory courses: Learning content and increasing quantitative literacy’, Teaching Sociology 34 (1): 54–64.

  5. Bennett, A., Barth, A. and Rutherford, K.R. (2003) ‘Do we preach what we practice? A survey of methods in political science journals and curricula’, Political Science and Politics 36 (3): 373–378.

  6. Blalock, H.M. (1989) ‘The real and unrealized contributions of quantitative sociology’, American Sociological Review 54 (3): 447–460.

  7. Bradstreet, T.E. (1996) ‘Teaching introductory statistics courses so that nonstatisticians experience statistical reasoning’, The American Statistician 50 (1): 69–78.

  8. Bridges, G.S., Gillmore, G.M., Pershing, J.L. and Bates, K.A. (1998) ‘Teaching quantitative research methods: A quasi-experimental analysis’, Teaching Sociology 26 (1): 14–28.

  9. Cobb, P. and McClain, K. (2004) ‘Principles of Instructional Design for Supporting the Development of Students’ Statistical Reasoning’, in D. Ben-Zvi and J. Garfield (eds.) The Challenge of Developing Statistical Literacy, Reasoning, and Thinking, Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 375–395.

  10. Frieden, J.A. (2004) ‘One Europe, one vote?: The political economy of European Union representation in international organizations’, European Union Politics 5 (2): 261–276.

  11. Garfield, J. and Ben-Zvi, D. (2009) ‘Helping students develop statistical reasoning: Implementing a statistical reasoning learning environment’, Teaching Statistics 31 (3): 72–77.

  12. Hewitt, J.J. (2001) ‘In the classroom: Using the ICB interactive data library to teach conflict and crisis analysis’, International Studies Perspectives 2 (4): 371–383.

  13. Howery, C.B. and Rodriguez, H. (2006) ‘Integrating Data Analysis (IDA): Working with sociology departments to address the quantitative literacy gap’, Teaching Sociology 34 (1): 23–38.

  14. Hulsizer, M.R. and Woolf, L.M. (2009) A Guide to Teaching Statistics: Innovations and Best Practices, Chisester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

  15. Janda, K. (2001) ‘Teaching research methods: The best job in the department’, The Political Methodologist 10 (1): 6–7.

  16. Lewis-Beck, M.S. (2001) ‘Teaching undergraduate methods: Overcoming “Stat” anxiety’, The Political Methodologist 10 (1): 7–9.

  17. Mahoney, J. (2007) ‘Debating the state of comparative politics: Views from qualitative research’, Comparative Political Studies 40 (1): 32–38.

  18. Markham, W.T. (1991) ‘Research methods in the introductory course: To be or not to be?’, Teaching Sociology 19 (4): 464–471.

  19. Onwuegbuzie, A.J. and Wilson, V.A. (2003) ‘Statistics anxiety: Nature, etiology, antecedents, effects, and treatments – A comprehensive review of the literature’, Teaching in Higher Education 8 (2): 195–209.

  20. Pan, W. and Tang, M. (2004) ‘Examining the effectiveness of innovative instructional methods on reducing statistics anxiety for graduate students in social sciences’, Journal of Instructional Psychology 31 (2): 149–159.

  21. Payne, G., Lyon, E.S. and Anderson, R. (1989) ‘Undergraduate sociology: Research methods in the public sector curriculum’, Sociology 23 (2): 261–273.

  22. Pierson, P. (2007) ‘The costs of marginalization: Qualitative methods in the study of American politics’, Comparative Political Studies 40 (2): 146–169.

  23. Scheel, E.D. (2002) ‘Using active learning projects to teach research skills throughout the sociology curriculum’, Sociological Practice: A Journal of Clinical and Applied Sociology 4 (2): 145–170.

  24. Weiss, G.L. (1987) ‘Using a local research center to enhance the teaching of research methodology’, Teaching Sociology 15 (2): 191–194.

  25. Wilder, E.I. (2009) ‘Responding to the quantitative literacy gap among students in sociology courses’, Teaching Sociology 37 (2): 151–170.

  26. Wilder, E.I. (2010) ‘A qualitative assessment of efforts to integrate data analysis throughout the sociology curriculum: Feedback from students, faculty, and alumni’, Teaching Sociology 38 (3): 226–246.

  27. Zablotsky, D. (2001) ‘Why do I have to learn this if I’m not going to graduate school? Teaching research methods in a social psychology of aging course’, Educational Gerontology 27 (7): 609–622.

Download references

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Edith Drieskens, Sofie Marien, Stefaan Fiers and Bart Maddens for their participation in the project, Steven Huyghe and Koen Slootmaeckers for support in the development of the LAs and the students of the Master in Comparative and International Politics for providing feedback in the focus groups.

Author information

Correspondence to johan adriaensen.

Additional information

This article represents a shortened version of an extensive project report (Project report, 2013), which can be consulted at http://soc.kuleuven.be/epos .

Restructuring the methods courses in such a way that each programme has their own customised course would imply a multiplication of the required teaching staff. This requires adjustments to the allocation model between faculties and among faculty staff.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

adriaensen, j., coremans, e. & kerremans, b. Overcoming Statistics Anxiety: Towards the Incorporation of Quantitative Methods in Non-Methodological Courses. Eur Polit Sci 13, 251–265 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1057/eps.2014.8

Download citation

Keywords

  • statistics anxiety
  • course cross-over approach
  • learning trajectory