Exploring the Role of Context in Students' Understanding of Sampling

Jacqueline R. Wroughton, Herle M. McGowan, Leigh V. Weiss, and Tara M. Cope

Context provides meaning for data analysis and the evaluation of evidence but may be distracting to students. This research explores the role of context in students’ reasoning about sampling: specifically, the relationship between the strength of students’ opinions about a topic, which provides the context for a study, and their ability to judge the quality of the sampling method and the scope of the conclusions in the study. Data were collected at four diverse institutions in both a testing environment and through individual interviews. Student responses were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Testing environment results showed little evidence of the use of context whereas interview results shows more evidence of reliance on context-bases opinions rather than statistical principles.