This section provides practical information, exemplars, and tips for using data in teaching, including ideas for using data in teaching, practical advice on sharing data with students, teaching resources and teaching case studies.
Areas of coverage
The UK Data Service contains a rich source of demographic, economic, behavioural and attitudinal data, many of which have been published, with which to address many substantive topics.
Students could be asked to replicate research already conducted, to extend this research, or to examine the data from an entirely different perspective.
By directly engaging with the data and documentation, students gain a good appreciation of the limitations and variations amongst different measures. For example, they might look at different ways of measuring unemployment using the Labour Force Survey or the way in which this varies between groups.
Several data series in our collection are good sources for comparative analysis.
The most notable are the Eurobarometer Survey Series, conducted across all EU countries simultaneously using the same questionnaires, and the International Social Survey Programme, in which an identical core of questions are included in surveys in twenty two countries.
The OECD and World Bank macro databanks are specifically designed and harmonised for cross-country comparative analysis.
Change in time can be explored using surveys in which topics are repeated in different years. The British Social Attitudes Survey is a good example as the survey is relatively straightforward to use and has attitudinal questions which students are often interested to explore. There is an annual report which provides excellent material for further exploration by students at a range of levels of statistical expertise.
Studying change over time
A large number of data sources in our data catalogue permit the exploration of change over time, including change in the demographic or other aspects of the structure of society, behavioural patterns, and attitudes.
Longitudinal data can result from panels such as the British Household Panel Survey or cohorts such as the National Child Development Study. These allow students to look personal change over time, as compared with changes in propensity obtained from repeated cross-sectional surveys.
All of our international macro databanks contain times series data. For example, the IMF's International Financial Statistics, which is updated every month, contains very long and consistent time series that paint a complete portrait of global economic change, growth and crises over the last 50 years (see some real-life sample course plans used in teaching).
Survey design and methods
Data and documentation explaining how the data were created can be used in teaching on various methodological issues connected with the collection and analysis of data.
The potential is substantial and includes:
Survey series may change aspects of study methodology over time, such as data collection method or mode, thus permitting an exploration of these effects. In a small number of cases, changes have been introduced on a split panel basis which gives more precise estimates of the methodology effects.
We offer a pre-packaged teaching resource for introducing qualitative data collection methods covering seven types of interviewing approaches and non-interview data collections methods that can be used to compare research strategies and resulting data.
Students keen to work with smaller surveys or sub populations (such as minority groups) will naturally encounter the impact of sample size on the precision of estimates, providing an opportunity to engage practically with such concepts as standard errors and confidence intervals.
For advanced students, complex surveys typically include information on the design effect in the documentation. Some surveys (for example, the British Social Attitudes Survey and Health Survey for England) also contain design variables to allow complex samples to be properly analysed and for the effect of the sample design to be quantified. Practical exercises are available to support this learning.
Some of our surveys, for example large government surveys, have been subjected to extensive work on dealing with non-response.
Students might look at the use of weighting schemes to adjust for non-response and how non-response can affect results. Advanced students could devise imputation procedures to adjust for missing data.
Our data management pages contain a range of information about consent, confidentiality and related issues.
Secondary analysis of qualitative data
We are committed to the reuse of the full range of data and our team includes pioneers in the secondary analysis of qualitative and mixed methods data. Examples of our guides and teaching resources are
Managing research data
As it is now essential that researchers are able to demonstrate their ability to manage data effectively, this has become an important set of skills to share with students.
Got something to offer?
We are always looking for partnerships with academics and trainers to create new resources for teaching based on either specific data collections or on comparative sources. If we can help you to develop resources or to share these more widely please get in touch.
Registering as a teacher and sharing data
To use data, excluding international macro databanks, as part of a taught course:
All students who are registered with the UK Data Service should be added to your usage details. However, if the majority of your students are not registered and the data are only being used within a classroom setting, you should complete the Access Agreement for Teaching and ask your students to sign it. Once completed, please return it to the address on the form.
Access to data placed on any shared areas, including websites, to be used for teaching purposes must be restricted to registered users or to users who have signed the Access Agreement for Teaching. These data must be removed from any shared areas when the data are no longer required.
The teaching agreement applies only in cases where data are accessed in a classroom setting. These data must not be saved to media that are portable or externally accessible. Students will have to register with the UK Data Service individually if they are expected to use data independently outside of the classroom.
Students using data for their own research, e.g. for a PhD or a MPhil, are classified as researchers and should register their usage of the data individually.
Using macro databanks for teaching
There is no requirement to register a teaching usage if you are using the International macro databanks for teaching purposes but each student must register and agree online to any terms and conditions.
Using data in a new or interesting way?
If you are using data in an interesting way within the classroom we would like to hear from you. Other teachers may find your approach inspires them to think about new ways in which they could use data themselves. If you are willing to share your experiences, or be interviewed for a case study, please contact us via our help page.
Our teaching and learning guides
We have a growing range of teaching resources which can be used in a class situation or for self-paced learning. These include:
Discover our teaching and learning guides
Our other guides
Many of our other guides, while not explicitly designed for learning and teaching, can be readily used in teaching:
This collection can be explored through Discover
Qualitative teaching resources
This teaching resource incorporates a selection of the qualitative material collected during the course of the Peter Townsend’s 1950s Last Refuge study, which was a major investigation of long-stay institutional care for old people in Britain.
External teaching and learning resources
If you are interested in using data in your teaching you may also be interested in some key resources produced by external organisations:
Our teaching case studies
Our teaching case studies contain real-life examples of data being used in a teaching setting. Using this resource you can browse accounts of the way in which teachers have successfully used data in their teaching in creative and innovative ways.
Discover our case studies to explore uses according to topic, data type, course type and educational level.
If you could share your teaching experiences with others by providing a case study please get in touch.