‘Who Are We?’ – South Wales students become quantitative social scientists for a day

In collaboration with the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD) and the Cardiff School of Social Sciences , funded by the ESRC (Ref: RES-622-26-368)

Talk of numbers with school teachers, most immediately think of their MAT (more able and talented) students who can ‘do maths’, but where does the social science bit come in? On Wednesday 2nd November 2011, the ESRC Festival of Social Science event ‘Who are we? From local to global citizen’, took on the challenge of showing 70 Key Stage 4 pupils from five local schools how to ‘do’ social science with numbers. The five participating schools included three from Cardiff: Cathays, Cantonian and Mary Immaculate and two from the Valleys: Mountain Ash and Ferndale.

After a welcome speech from Professor Malcolm Williams (Head of School), three short presentations were given using the results of an online survey students completed in advance of the event.

Interactive activities were built into the plenary sessions. The pink/green/blue voting cards went down a treat (featured in the video below with Dr Luke Sloan). In the break-out sessions, students compared their own results with national and international data on happiness, Welsh language and identities.

The students learned how to compute the ‘happiness index’ and interpret statistics by studying maps and tabulations. They also learned how to be a critical consumer of statistics, the importance of random sampling, the limits of generalizations and the merits of disaggregation in data analysis.

After lunch, students re-convened to report their results from the workshop exercises. The chance of ‘lucky dips’ in the goody bag certainly helped boost their confidence in answering questions in what might seem an intimidating big lecture theatre.  The slide show of photos taken during the morning sessions justly achieved a ‘wow’ effect.

Mark Drakeford, AM (Cardiff West) and Professor of Social Policy at the School of Social Sciences, gave the final plenary session. He spoke about how quantitative social science research makes a real difference in peoples’ lives and how Townsend’s work on poverty in Wales and the Welsh Multiple Index of Deprivation had informed government policies and funding allocation.

The day was rounded off with a presentation of certificate of attendance, which gave the students a sense of accomplishment. Ferndale School also won the prize for the highest response rate in the online survey.