Teaching Programming Skills in Methods Courses Is an Opportunity, Not a Burden

Teaching Programming Skills in Methods Courses Is an Opportunity, Not a Burden

By Rob Williams, Washington University in St. Louis

As political scientists have become more skilled in the tools of computational social science, we have begun to pass these skills on to our undergraduate students. Students in undergraduate quantitative methods courses today often learn to program in statistical software alongside the more traditional topics of mathematics and research design. Many undergraduates are eager to learn these skills due to their desirability in increasingly common data science jobs. An equally large number of undergraduates may harbor anxieties about having to “learn to code” for the first time, especially in departments in which completing a quantitative methods course is a required component of the degree. These concerns are especially pronounced for students who belong to groups that historically have been excluded from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.