Unit 5: Quantitative Methods

Here are the basic course navigation buttons:

WebCT (not needed)
Class List
Unit 1
Unit 2
Unit 3
Unit 4
Unit 5

Unit title: Quantitative Methods in Education Research

Unit Overview:

As with unit 4 on qualitative methods, unit 5 tackles concepts, issues, perspectives, and tools related to quantitative methods in education research. You may need to return to chapter 1 (which you downloaded) for a bit of a refresher on just what exactly separates these two perspectives - but make no mistake, the distance between them is enormous! They have fundamentally different perspectives on what counts as evidence, what methods are appropriate, and even what is real - and not. For example, quantitative researchers believe that the world is an ordered place - and that this order can be understood and anticipated through structured inquiry. The qualitative researchers, on the other hand, believe the world has multiple truths - or multiple realities, and the best we can do is describe a single reality (instance, situation…) from our single vantage point! Consequently, the methods these two groups use are radically different. For example, because the world is known (definable), a quantitative researcher feels just fine about designing a survey to understand issues. The qualitative researcher, however, says "whoaaa, baby… as soon as you design a survey you're restricting yourself to learning only certain things (the answers to the survey) and then all you're doing is understanding the situation as you've defined it - why not understand it from folks who know it best - those inside the situation (whoever that might be)?" So… very different ideas.

Now… what's all this have to do with us silly old teachers. True, true… I know these are conversations that don't always appeal to all of us equally! However, if your goal is to understand issues in your classroom that would help your kids learn more/better/faster (and this should be one of your goals… in case you weren't sure), then understanding a different set of methods for helping figure out what's going on is time well spent.

So… just as there were several genres of research within the qualitative tradition (ethnography, grounded theory, historical research, and action research) there are similar genres within quantitative methods (survey, correlational, causal-comparative, and experimental). Again, you may need to return to chapter 1 for a refresher course on some of the big differences between these genres. I don't expect that you will become a master of each - but I do expect that you will understand what each is useful for doing and what kinds of research questions could be answered by each.

Unit assignments:

As with the qualitative methods unit, there are several things to be completed in unit 5.

First, read carefully chapter 14 on descriptive statistics (find it in the library). This is one of the most important chapters in the entire text (second only to chapter 1 and maybe chapter 6) because it describes many critical concepts related to understanding statistics in education research. Focus on pages 409 to 426 - after this, the chapter gets into using a statistics package called SPSS - which is great but outside the scope of our work together.

Second, after working through chapter 14, visit the library and download the activity titled M&M activity - exploring variability and central tendency. Follow the instructions, work through the activity, and answer all the questions as best you can. I will post an answer key in a couple of weeks so don't delay! Don't get frustrated by the mathematics - there's a couple things that are a little complex but really, if you can add, subtract, multiply and divide - and have a calculator that can too - then you'll be fine! This activity is an in-class activity that counts for participation and is due in class on the last day... see calendar.

Third, after completing the M&M activity, download the Investigating Relationships Activity - also from the library. Now really, this is the hardest of the mathematics in this class - but again, it is multi-step arithmetic. Solicit help from your classmates - or others - if necessary. I'll post an answer key in a couple of weeks for this one too. This activity is an in-class activity that counts for participation and is due in class on the last day... see calendar.

Fourth, once you feel like you have a general sense of descriptive statistics (chapter 14), take a stab at chapter 15 in your book - called Inferential statistics. Focus on pages 445-467 - getting through the conversations about t-tests. Remember, when they show you how to calculate t-tests using SPSS - you can tune out! Chapter 15 is available in the library.

Fifth, once you've made it though chapter 15, go back to the library for your last independent activity. Download T-tests activity and give it a whirl too. As with the others, the focus here is on learning - giving it the old college try, developing an understanding of the concepts, not necessarily on getting the right answer. As with the others, I'll post an answer key in a couple of weeks. So... this makes 3 "in class activities" about statistics. Yes, we will turn these in on the last day of class and they will count toward your participation grade - see syllabus as this counts for 25% of your grade! Again, see calendar.

Sixth, begin work on your Quantitative Methods Project - as described in the course syllabus. Feel free to either work in small groups or individually. I like the group notion so we can help each other through the conceptualization of the research questions and data gathering instruments but… its up to you. Have fun with this project - I had some students a while back who designed a survey to explore this research question: Is there a relationship between number of years teaching experience and number of drinks consumed per week? Well… they actually found a statistically significant correlation - interesting! Remember, if somebody sends you a survey you have to respond within say… 24 hours! Unless, of course, the survey is rude and objectionable - be tasteful!

So… this is the scope for unit 5! It is a big one - with lots to do! Your Quantitative Methods Project is due to Mark via email by midnight on Sunday, August 5th.

Good luck, don't put things off, investment early pays off in the end, the early bird catches the worm… I'm out of cliches.