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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Comparing Training Approaches for Technological Skill Development in Introductory Statistics Courses

Technology has transformed the modern introductory statistics course, but little is known about how students develop the skills required to use this technology. This study compares two different training approaches for learning to operate statistical software packages. Guided training (GT) uses direct instruction and explicit guidance during training, whereas active-exploratory training types, such as error-management training (EMT), promote self-directed exploration. Previous studies in general software training suggest that EMT outperforms GT at promoting adaptive skill transfer. This study recruited a sample of 115 psychology students enrolled in introductory statistics courses that ran concurrently across two campuses. These students completed weekly, one-hour training sessions learning to use the statistical package SPSS. In the final week of the semester, students completed an SPSS certification task to measure adaptive skill transfer. The EMT and GT approach was implemented in Campus A and B respectively. Due to non-random allocation, the covariates of gender, personal access, statistical knowledge, and training progress were taken into account when modeling adaptive transfer between training approaches. After controlling for these covariates, no difference in adaptive transfer was found between training approaches. The results suggest that improving access to statistical packages may provide a more powerful way to improve the development of technological skills over using different training approaches.

Characterising Students' Interaction with TinkerPlots

Exploration of the way in which students interacted with the software package, TinkerPlots Dynamic Data Exploration, to answer questions about a data set using different forms of graphical representations, revealed that the students used three dominant strategies – Snatch and Grab, Proceed and Falter, and Explore and Complete. The participants in the study were 12 year 5-and-6 students (11-12 years old) who completed data analysis activities and answered questions about the data analysis process undertaken. The data for the inquiry were collected by on-screen capture video as the students worked at the computer with TinkerPlots. Thematic analysis was used to explore the data to determine the students’ strategies when conducting data analysis within the software environment.

Technology Innovations

Virtual Discussion for Real Understanding: The Use of an Online Discussion Board in an Introductory Biostatistics Course

One of the challenges of teaching is engaging students in a subject they may not see as relevant to them. This issue is especially prevalent when teaching statistics to health science students as many do not consider statistics an important piece of their medical training. Additional difficulty is presented when teaching courses via distance technology or courses that are partially or completely online as the valuable class discussion component is lost. This paper focuses on fostering “discussion” about statistical concepts and how they relate to each student on an individual level. This paper describes the online discussion board as a tool incorporated to supplement classroom activities and not as one to be limited to the online class. Two activities where the discussion board can be utilized are described: one where students participate in a series of guided discussions through instructor provided, thought-provoking questions and another where students critique an article related to their field of study and post for discussion. The objectives are to enhance knowledge, develop critical thinking, gain an appreciation of how statistics is used in different fields, and provide opportunities for discussion outside the classroom. Students are able to discuss issues with classmates who can be in the classroom or abroad using a virtual environment. This approach has been successfully used in both purely online classes and in large graduate level biostatistics classes including both synchronous and asynchronous distance learners.