"Comparing Active Learning and Traditional Lecture Introductory Statistics Classes at Montana State University (Fall 2013)"
Katie Banner & Jim Robison-Cox, Montana State University
Two versions of an introductory statistics course are available to students at MSU. One involves a lecture approach based on DeVeaux et.al.'s Stats: Data & Models while the other is built around group activities and computer simulation with minimal lecture and is a modified version of the CATALST curriculum (Garfield,J and DelMas,R et. al. 2008-2012). Learning objectives are the same for both delivery modes in that students should understand the basics of statistical inference. Our study was designed to assess and compare content knowledge across these two curricula. The traditional introductory statistics class includes basic probability, the concept of sampling distributions, and z and t tests for means, proportions, and comparisons of means and proportions. Students in the traditional class attend lecture where they sit in individual desks and spend the majority of class time taking notes. In contrast, MSU has recently remodeled two classrooms to be Technology Enhanced, Active Learning (TEAL) environments that seat nine students (three groups of three) at a seven foot circular table with a connector to a wall mounted flat screen monitor. TEAL and traditional class sizes are very similar, running between 35 and 40 students. Students in the TEAL version of the course engage in computer simulation to explore random events, simulate null distributions for hypothesis testing, and use bootstrapping software for building confidence intervals. Two instructors present the activity and do a wrap-up, but spend most of their time circulating through the room checking on how groups are problem solving. We have modified the CATLST curriculum to use different software and to prepare students for a subsequent statistics course. To assess differences in content knowledge between these two versions of the course we asked all students similar questions on their final and compared success rates. The questions were adapted from the GOALS assessment (delMas 2012). We briefly summarize the questions chosen and categorize them into content knowledge groups (scope of inference, power, variability, interpretation of confidence intervals, understanding of a hypothesis test, and interpretation of a p-value). We compare success rates for each question and discuss our inferences about differences in content knowledge between the two versions of introductory statistics offered at MSU in the Fall 2013 semester.
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