Guest Essay by Melissa Whatley, School for International Training


The new book by Melissa Whatley

Financial strains and tense social contexts have put a spotlight on many aspects of international education in the past few years, touching issues such as the international flow of students, scholars, and ideas; the commodification and exchange of knowledge on a global scale; and the extreme inequalities associated with these activities. International educators can no longer assume that their work produces positive results for everyone involved, or that others will accept their activities as inherently benevolent. Coupled with an overall increasing focus on assessment in education generally, international educators have recently found themselves in a place where they must critically reflect on and evaluate the activities they undertake and the resources they expend, a task that necessitates empirical research and data analysis. Within this context, both scholars and practitioners in international education are increasingly in need of research training, both qualitative and quantitative. My new book, Introduction to Quantitative Analysis for International Educators published in 2022 with Springer, provides an introduction to one of these approaches to empirical inquiry, quantitative analysis, specifically written for individuals working in international education. The book assumes no prior knowledge of statistics and takes readers from the basic building blocks of quantitative analysis through an introduction to more complex research designs, namely experimental and quasi-experimental analysis. All examples draw from international and comparative education topics, which makes the book more accessible to individuals working in international education compared to other, more general, statistics textbooks.

The book’s primary audiences include international education graduate students, faculty in international education who seek a foundation in quantitative research methods, and scholar-practitioners who want to analyze data quantitatively for practical purposes. Students can use this book to guide Master’s thesis/capstone or doctoral dissertation work, while scholars and practitioners will find the book useful when analyzing data for program evaluation, conducting needs assessments, and using data in decision-making.

Book Structure and Contents

Specifically, chapters in the book begin with an introduction to quantitative data, including types of data and sampling strategies, before moving on to measures of central tendency and measures of variability. Once these foundational concepts are introduced, the book introduces hypothesis testing, including t-tests, one-way ANOVA, the chi-square test of independence, and correlation. These chapters are then brought together in chapters on ordinary least squares regression and additional regression topics, which include categorical predictors, interaction terms, common functional form specifications, and binary outcome variables. The book closes with chapters that introduce experimental and quasi-experimental research design and suggestions for writing about quantitative research for both scholarly and practitioner audiences.

In addition to the book’s core content, each chapter summarizes example studies in international education that apply the analytic approach described, provides suggestions for additional reading for readers who want to dive more deeply into a particular topic, and contains practice problems for readers who want to try out each analytic approach in the software of their choice, such as SPSS, Stata, or R. An answer key for these problem sets is found at the end of the book. Sample datasets that draw from publicly available data such as the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the Institute of International Education (IIE) accompany these practice problems, and can be found on the book’s website. For instructors who wish to use the book to teach a research methods-focused course, the website also includes PowerPoint presentations that can be used as a starting point for developing teaching material for each chapter. For all audiences, the website provides a list of sources for obtaining quantitative data that may be of use for exploring international education topics, including global data sources such as UNESCO and the OECD, and country- and region-specific sources, such as Canada, Mexico, and Europe.

Concluding Thoughts

My purpose in writing this book was to provide individuals working in international education, whether from a practitioner or researcher perspective, with an accessible resource for learning and applying quantitative analysis to key questions in our field. While the book does not offer a comprehensive overview of all analytic approaches that individuals will need as professionals in international education, it introduces readers to the most important concepts. In this way, readers interested in diving deeper into specific analytic approaches will have the foundation to pursues these more advanced analyses, whether through formal training or future individual study. Importantly, this book provides readers with the tools they need to answer difficult questions about key issues in our field, such as inequality, commodification of education, and the consequences of international student mobility. While the answers to these questions may be uncomfortable and inconvenient at times, it is only through identifying these issues that we can begin to address them.

Melissa Whatley. (2022). Introduction to Quantitative Analysis for International Educators. Springer Cham.

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