22 SES 09 A, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
Sociology is a popular subject studied at degree level in Europe. It is gaining momentum to be standardised through Europe as is evidenced by European Sociology Degree Project (Scaglia, 2008) in which 5 universities from 4 European Union countries have developed a common Sociology degree. Within most undergraduate Sociology degree programmes (Europe and Worldwide), students are often required to cover research methodologies. These research methodologies may include using both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. Murtonen (2005) suggests that students may privilege one of these research techniques over the other. This may indicate that students will perform better in research methodology courses which have more content aligned to the students’ preference of methodology. Further, students’ performance on research methodology courses may be affected by their expectations on what their Sociology degree might contain. For example, students who perceived Sociology as being a “soft” subject with limited need for numerical literacy, may not privilege quantitative research techniques. Alongside with this, students who are at universities where the academic entry grade is higher, may be able to perform better in research methods as they may have better academic skills.
This research therefore intends to answer the following question:
What factors affect students’ performance in research methods?
To answer this question we will investigate how the following conditions affect students’ performance on research methods:
- Initial reasons for choosing their Sociology degree
- Attitudes to their Sociology degree
- Attitudes towards mathematics/statistics
- University academic culture/environment
Theoretical Framework and Research Design
The research uses Bandura’s notion of reciprocal determinism which is based on social cognitive theory to explore the factors that affect students’ performance in research methods (Bandura, 1989). Reciprocal determinism suggests that the three factors of Environment (E), behaviour (B) and Personal Cognitive/Affective (P) factors are influenced by and influences each other. Using this, we suggest that the students’ performance (i.e. behaviour, B) on research methods will be related to the environment (E) and their own personal cognitive/affective factors (P). The relationship between the factors will be established using a step-wise regression model.The research uses data from the ‘Student Perceptions and Experiences of Quantitative Methods’ database (SPEQM) conducted in 2006 through an UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grant. In that research, 622 Sociology students were surveyed in their 2nd and 3rd year of their undergraduate degree at 34 English and Welsh universities (see Williams, Payne, Hodgkinson, & Poade, 2008 for further information).
Bandura, A. (1989). Social cognitive theory. In R. Vasta (Ed.), Annals of Child Development (Vol. 6, pp. 1-60). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.. Murtonen, M. (2005). University students' research orientations: do negative attitudes exist toward quantitative methods? Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 49(3), 263-280. doi: 10.1080/00313830500109568 Scaglia, A. (2008). EUSDEGREE - European Sociology Degree European Commission - Lifelong Learning Programme. Università degli Studi di Trento. Williams, M., Payne, G., Hodgkinson, L., & Poade, D. (2008). Does British sociology count?: Sociology students' attitudes toward quantitative methods. Sociology, 42(5), 1003-1021. doi: 10.1177/0038038508094576
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