"Validating an Interactive Approach to Teach Large Statistics Classes Based on the GAISE Recommendations"
with Ramon Gomez, Florida International University
Statistics is often a difficult subject for many undergraduates taking introductory courses at college. The increasing use of large classes for this type of courses has compounded the problem. The GAISE college report of 2005 addressed these issues by summarizing the research activity and practice innovations of the previous twenty years. This poster illustrates a practitioner study describing an interactive approach based on the GAISE recommendations to teach introductory statistics courses for large classes. This approach involves the daily use of PowerPoint presentations for all lectures and statistical software output for computations and graphs, in addition to material posted on a website. The course used for this study was Introduction to Statistics I (STA-2122) offered at Florida International University during the fall of 2009 and 2010, with enrollment about 200 students each time and the present author as the designated instructor. The course served a variety of college majors and covered three logical units: descriptive statistics, probability, and inferential statistics on a single sample. The textbook was "Statistics" by McClave and Sincich, 11th edition, covering topics from chapter 1 to 8. Material posted on the instructor's website included the course description and objectives, syllabus, recommended exercises, and vocabulary. The PowerPoint presentations for this course, developed by the instructor, involved a variety of contents like text, tables, figures, and graphs, some of them coming from statistical software output. Use of burdening slides was avoided. The systemic use of these presentations was structured with the goal of maximizing the students' engagement and active learning in class. A course pack with the PowerPoint slides was available at the university bookstore, facilitating the students' participation in class discussions. The use of statistical software (SPSS) for this course was applied to a variety of topics such as frequency graphs, box plots, sampling distributions, confidence intervals, and tests of hypothesis, eliminating several long and tedious hand computations. The SPSS computer output was incorporated to lectures via PowerPoint and used during the class discussion of numerous examples and exercises with real data. These large classes met twice a week, 75 minutes each. The classrooms were standard auditoriums with a capacity for 200-250 students. A computer connected projector and a big screen were used for the PowerPoint presentations. A dry erase board was also available as a supplement for class discussions. Students were required to bring the text book and a basic scientific calculator to class, as well as the course pack with the PowerPoint slides. Hence, limited notes were needed during classes, allowing students to focus on the discussion of statistical concepts, exercises solution, and SPSS output. As a result, a more interactive type of lecture, compared to the traditional teacher-centered approach, was generated where conceptual understanding and statistical thinking were stressed. Expectations for the students' performance were clearly stated since the beginning of the course. A detailed list of objectives, chapter by chapter, was available in the instructor's website. Also, specific objectives for each evaluation activity were described during class time. Student evaluations consisted of two midterms, three team take-home assignments and a cumulative final exam. Take-home assignments were planned with the purpose of promoting cooperative learning and sense of community, while helping students to prepare for the midterms and final exam. The indicators used to assess the effectiveness of the method described here were the percentage rate of retention and passing students, calculated in relation to enrollment. The performance was very consistent for the two large classes (fall of 2009 and 2010) with this interactive teaching approach. The combined enrollment was 398 students with an outstanding retention rate of 97% and passing rate of 76.1%. Furthermore, the median score for the non-dropped students was 82% of the possible total score. Although there were no control groups to compare during these two terms, the impact of this interactive teaching method implemented on large classes can be assessed by comparing the given results to the performance of students that took the same course with me, using a more traditional teacher-centered approach, the previous two years. Those students were enrolled in four regular classes (50-60 students each) with low level use of technology, limited to some online material and a scientific calculator. The combined enrollment for these groups was 224 students that showed a retention rate of 93% and passing rate of 58.5%. Tests of significance, understanding their inference limitations in this case, showed superiority for the interactive approach with large classes. This was particularly clear for the passing rate comparison where the p-value was less than 0.0001. Furthermore, the students' high satisfaction with this technology based teaching method was evidenced by the results of the university surveys conducted at the end of the course where 93% of participating students rated the overall quality of instruction as excellent or very good. The discussion indicates that this interactive teaching-learning method based on the GAISE recommendations, including technology resources such as PowerPoint and SPSS, resulted in a very effective model that improved the quality of instruction and students' understanding while fitting the needs of large classes.
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