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Chi-square is dead? Teaching Quantitative Methods in the Age of Big Data: the perspective from UK Geography
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Category: Webinars

There has been widespread lament about the decline of quantitative methods teaching and learning within UK social science. The consequence is said to be harmful to research, to the employability of students and to citizenship: if people cannot understand the data they are presented with, the cannot debate it. The ESRC, HEFCE, British Academy and Nuffield Foundation have invested considerable money in resolving this situation, with the most visible projects currently the national Q-Step Centres and the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative. Within schools, maths is being strengthened, with the possibility of core maths or A/AS level being compulsory for all pupils. In Universities, the review of benchmark statements provides opportunity to strengthen the role of quantitative methods within curricula. Yet, there is no clear understanding of what actually we mean by quantitative methods - is it pure maths, applied data handling, 19th/20th century statistics or basic numeracy? Is it a return to the past or does quantitative methods mean something different today? Drawing on work that has been undertaken in geography, I will discuss some of the ambiguities, the vogue for embedding quantitative methods within curricula, the cult of statistical significance, why this is not a return to positivism, and what actually a modern syllabus in quantitative methods might look like.

Presenter: Richard Harris is a professor of quantitative social geography in the School of Geographical Sciences at the University of Bristol (UK). He trained as a social geographer looking at the application of spatial statistics and geodemographics in marketing, public policy and urban geography. More recent work has been in the geographies of education and learning, focusing on choice and markets in educational systems, measures of social segregation and of ethnic polarisation, ways to support the transition of pupils from primary to secondary schools, and on supporting quantitative and statistical literacy amongst geographers and undergraduate social scientists. In 2014, he was awarded the Taylor & Francis Award for excellence in the promotion and practice of teaching quantitative methods by the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).

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