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Situational interest in the statistics classroom

American Educational Research Association
Mitchell, M.
Chicago, IL

This study investigated two statistics classroom environments that a priori apeared to hold promise as being motivationally effective classrooms. One environment (2 classes) was at the high school level and the other environment (4 classes) was at the graduate level. In particular the study measured students' perceived situational interest in the learning environment, individual interest in statistics (with pre and post measures), and mathematics anxiety (with pre and post measures). The results indicate that both environments were high in situational interest, did substantially increase the mean individual interest of students, and had a beneficial but smaller impact in terms of associated decreases in mathematics anxiety. In addition, there did apear to be some gender effects-although these effects across the two learning environments were not consistent. Finally, the environments did appear to be particularly effective for students with previous low individual interests in statistics/mathematics. The study enriches our understanding of the "interest" construct primarily by providing evidence that the situational interest of learning enviornments may have a much greater impact on individual interests than researchers previously thought. While only two specific learning environments are provided as examples, the paper argues that we may need to pay as much attention to the motivational effects of statistics classrooms as we do to the learning effects. Students who have positive affective experiences will be more willing to continue taking mathematics/statistics courses or to use quantitative analysis techniques in their own research.