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Quantitative Methods in Education Research

4. Correlation and Causation

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In this lecture, we think about the concepts of correlation and causation by considering the relationship between long-term FSM eligibility and Key Stage 4 results, focusing in particular on: (i) what it means for there to be a correlation between two sets of data, through an example of prior and later attainment in school exams; (ii) the negative correlation between number of years FSM-eligible and exam results at Key Stage 4; (iii) how we establish causation – the claim that one thing is the cause of another.


In this course, Professor Stephen Gorard (Durham University) explores the use of numerical data in education research. In the first lecture, we think about why numbers are important in sociology and whether the distinction between qualitative and quantitative research is useful. In the second lecture, we look at comparing frequencies between groups. In the third lecture, we look at identifying differences between groups – with examples from education research. Next, we examine the concepts of correlation and causation by exploring the relationship between Free School Meal eligibility and attainment in school exams. In the fifth and final lecture, we put these different methods together to discuss more broadly the unfairness of life chances.


Professor Stephen Gorard is Professor of Education and Public Policy and Director of the Evidence Centre for Education at Durham University. He has written very widely on educational inequalities, education policy, and research methods. His recent publications include How to Make Sense of Statistics (2021), How Can We Get Educators to Use Research Evidence? (2019, co-author), and Education Policy: Evidence of Equity and Effectiveness (2018).

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APA style

Gorard, S. (2021, September 30). Quantitative Methods in Education Research - Correlation and Causation [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Gorard, S. "Quantitative Methods in Education Research – Correlation and Causation." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 30 Sep 2021,

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