Within the UK there has been increasing emphasis placed on the need for greater amounts of quantitative skilled citizens and employees. In response to this skills deficit - and the financial stimulus provided by various funding bodies - universities, and researchers, are devoting increasing attention to the provision of quantitative skills training. However in the rush to provide the ‘best’ method of teaching quantitative methods key questions are being overlooked. Namely, what is understood by the term “quantitative methods”? How is this term constructed through learning-teaching performances within higher education? And how do these assemblages vary across academic disciplines?
To begin to investigate these themes, this study has adopted an actor-network sensibility, foregrounding both the human and, often overlooked, non-human actors involved in the construction of the concept of quantitative methods in a higher education context. In doing this the benefits and pitfalls of working with actor network theory in educational research are considered.
This study goes beyond a single disciplinary narrative of quantitative methods by tracking across four social science disciplines - criminology, economics, geography and psychology. Here the actor-networks of quantitative methods are considered, with particular attention given to identifying those actors taking the lead in enacting these multiple performances. Using data gathered through participant observation, semi-structured interviews, document analysis, and concept mapping this study problematizes the characterization of a unified concept called ‘quantitative methods’.
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