Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Testing Theory and Related Factors for Influencing Proficiency in Quantitative Research

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Testing Theory and Related Factors for Influencing Proficiency in Quantitative Research

Article excerpt


One of the key philosophies of science and of quantitative research in particular is the paradigm of positivism. This suggests that knowledge derived from logical and mathematical treatment of data is the only true source of authoritative knowledge. The positivist view, however, is opposed by the interpretivist who emphases the need to understand or interpret beliefs and motives through a qualitative perspective rather than the quantitative alternative. Notwithstanding the debates and positive arguments, advanced on both sides, all countries and their industries have embraced quantitative methods as the business and econometric tool for analyzing business problems; thus providing a testimony to the importance of quantitative techniques to modern economies. Indeed, the decline in productivity in countries such as the United States has been associated with declining skills among students in mathematics and sciences. More generally, there has been 'talk' that quantitative skills are rapidly declining among students in the West and that this decline could be indicative of the struggling economies of the western world.

In a comparative study of Social Science and Education students, from Finland and USA, Murtonen (2005) found a negative orientation towards quantitative methods among students from both countries. This, he attributed to either difficulties that students were experiencing in learning quantitative methods or a lack of appreciation for empirical work. In reality, many university students continue to suffer from statistical anxiety (which is an aversion the student encounters when faced with statistics) and a general inhibition to pursue quantitative research (Baloglu et al., 2011; Bradstreet, 1996; Kennett et al., 2009).

Statistical anxiety is experienced by approximately 80% of graduate students; and is found to have a debilitating effect on performance in both statistics and research methods courses (Onwuegbuzie, 2004). Further, seventy percent of graduate students do not read the 'Methods' section when assigned quantitative articles because they find the material complex; and do not understand how methods are linked to the hypotheses being tested (Corner, 2002, p. 671). Thus, it is not surprising that quantitative methods and statistics are reported to be two of the most difficult areas for students at both undergraduate and graduate levels (Murtonen, 2005). With the university being the conduit to the organization therefore, many firms are challenged to produce the required analyses at the cutting-edge as skill sets in research and statistics are woefully inadequate.

It is therefore startling that quantitative methods as well as the science of learning research in general have not been extensively studied despite the difficulties that students experience in this area (Murtonen et al., 2008). Moreover, most of the articles written in this area are of poor methodological quality and lack critical information on the practice of research (Bernard et al., 2004). Indeed, the study of quantitative research should be considered vital in a university's curricula since future management knowledge and theory are developed through research (Corner, 2002). On this basis, this study will investigate the factors that impact students' proficiency in quantitative research and will utilize Knox's Proficiency Theory as the base theory for explaining the research model.


Knox's Proficiency Theory of adult learning postulates that proficiency is the unifying concept for relating knowledge, skills and attitude to improve performance of the adult learner (Knox, 1980). Proficiency, he noted, is "the capability to perform satisfactorily if given the opportunity" (p. 378). "This theory of learning is based on the learner's motivation to learn and it assumes that he or she will be able to learn at a proficient level" (Froelich & Puig, 2009, p. …

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