Teaching methods: Pedagogical challenges in moving beyond traditionally separate quantitative and qualitative classrooms


pedagogy of methods
teaching methods
qualitative learning
quantitative learning
social research methods

How to Cite

Ferrie, J. and Spreckelsen, T. 2023. Teaching methods: Pedagogical challenges in moving beyond traditionally separate quantitative and qualitative classrooms. Open Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 2, 2 (Feb. 2023). DOI:https://doi.org/10.56230/osotl.64.


In the social sciences, research methods courses may be the most important and yet the most undervalued. Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) benchmark statements that deliver UK national standards all signify that methods teaching is essential. In terms of applicability, learning how to evaluate and produce knowledge has high relevance for employability. In the UK, despite being ‘core’, methods courses, compared with disciplinary courses, tend to have lower institutional investment utilising relatively small and early-career teaching teams and are taught to large groups of students (Ferrie et al., 2022). This paper draws together literature on the pedagogy of methods with reflexive practice to critically consider the barriers to learning methods and considers what methods educators and learners can do to engage optimally with the learner experience. This paper begins by considering how teaching of numeric- and text-based data produces a different learning environment to disciplinary learning. It then considers how quantitative pedagogy is distinct from qualitative pedagogy and in turn perpetuates the idea that they are distinct forms of knowledge production. The ‘pine tree’ and the ‘oak tree’ are two pedagogic devices that help students transform their learning practices. Growing calls to mix methods in course presentations and transcend the qualitative/quantitative divide present new challenges for pedagogy. The paper will outline a third pedagogic device that has helped students grasp something of a holistic understanding of how research methods operate. The ‘dirty greenhouse’ analogy, used with undergraduates and postgraduates (in large joint social sciences course at a large UK university), helps students scaffold their learning and get a quick grasp on what the value of methods courses are and avoids pitching qualitative and quantitative paradigms ‘against’ each other. The paper will argue that students are aided by having visual frameworks that help them, enhancing their critical approach to knowledge production and understanding better what a ‘defence’ in our research writing aims to do.

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Copyright (c) 2023 Jo Ferrie, Thees Spreckelsen