1. Who might want to contact the QUAD Center for assistance?
- Are you working on a paper and have questions about how to use research findings and other quantitative information to inform and strengthen your argument?
- Are you having difficulty with a homework problem in a statistics class and need help with computations or interpretations?
- Are you working on an assignment for which you have to evaluate data reported in news or research articles and need assistance in interpreting figures or graphs reported in the source?
- Are you planning a data collection project and have questions about how to improve the design of your study or how to analyze your data?
- Are you searching for resources such as software or web-based materials that can help you in your studying, your quantitative projects, or your teaching?
- Are you exploring ways of assessing learning outcomes and instructional effectiveness related to quantitative and analytical reasoning components of a class you teach?
The above are just a few examples of the kinds of activities the QUAD Center is designed to support. The QUAD Center operates much like the Writing Center, with student assistants available by appointment and on a drop-in basis and with faculty assistance also available when appropriate. The QUAD Center is positioned to help with student needs and questions that are problem- and project-focused and that don't involve weekly course tutoring arrangements. Ongoing personal tutoring for specific courses and for exam preparation is instead handled through the Learning Commons on the first floor in Ford, and through arrangements with course instructors.
More generally, the QUAD Center provides services in the following four areas:
- appointment-based and drop-in assistance to students for assignments, papers, projects, and general questions involving quantitative reasoning and data collection;
- research design and data analysis assistance for various projects having a statistical focus (e.g., senior thesis projects, student-faculty research collaborations, instructional assessment and testing);
- consultation support for faculty in identifying, developing, and refining quantitative reasoning tools, materials, and projects for a range of classes in the arts, sciences, and humanities; and
- assessment support for evaluating learning outcomes in projects, courses, and curricula connected to the quantitative reasoning goals of the university.
2. Why the QUAD acronym?
The Center's QUAD acronym reflects the breadth of its purpose. Although "Quantitative" concerns are central to what we do, the critical focus is on "Understanding" the meaning or possible interpretations of quantitative information and not simply on issues of calculation. A thorough understanding nevertheless can require careful "Analysis" of data that involves appropriate calculations as well as appropriate interpretation of the resulting values or quantities. Finally, the "Design" that guides data collection and analysis is critical to properly interpreting numerical information. No amount of clever computation can produce valid conclusions from data that have been collected carelessly or obtained in a poorly designed study.
Within this broad framework, there are several principles or tenets that guide the QUAD Center's efforts:
- Quantitative reasoning plays an important role in persuasive writing and speaking. Whether numerical information merely sets the stage for an argument or instead provides the primary source of evidence, the ability to interpret quantitative information and to use it well in one' s own arguments is central to a liberal education.
- Quantitative reasoning skills are best developed through practice and exposure throughout the curriculum. Mathematics-intensive courses are important in skill development, but quantitative reasoning ability is also developed "in context" - by encountering, critiquing, and using quantitative information to answer meaningful questions across different disciplines and settings.
- Quantitative reasoning most typically involves "simple math used in sophisticated ways." It does at times involve the use of advanced mathematics and statistics, particularly in certain disciplines. More often, however, the best quantitative reasoning involves a thorough and critical evaluation of data described in simple quantitative form.
- Understanding where numbers comes from, how they were obtained, and what interpretations they lend themselves to are not the same as the skills needed to do the basic computations. Understanding the "design" that underlies how data are collected or how measures are developed is important for making sense of most quantitative evidence.
- Perhaps the most important guiding assumption of the Center is that effective quantitative reasoning is "learnable" and enjoyable. It is a valuable skill that everyone can cultivate, and the process of improving and using one's quantitative reasoning skills can and should be rewarding!