By Brein Mosely, Kelly Findley, & Karle Flanagan (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
To better understand how undergraduate students differentiate and prioritize components of experimental design, we launched a survey that gauged students’ thinking across three areas: Group Sorting, Multi-group versus Pre-post comparisons, and Observation versus Intervention. The survey was presented to approximately 1500 students enrolled in introductory statistics courses at a large public university. In total, 779 students (~52%) consented and completed the survey. In each section, students were asked to pick a preferred design option and to provide a short answer explaining their choices. Using grounded theory methods, we open-coded various patterns of thinking that appeared in the students’ responses. These codes included perceived strengths and weaknesses of each design, as well as productive seeds toward statistical principles for comparison. We also found interesting tensions around whether students found intervention to be an effective or problematic design component.