2009 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., April 21, 2009
HUB Ballroom

Session Description



Replacing dogma with critical thinking in an introductory statistics course

Emily J. Blumenthal and Laura M. Little (Psychology)

"Statistical reasoning is an art and so demands both mathematical knowledge and informed judgment." Gerd Gigerenzer.

Teachers of introductory statistical methods for natural and behavioral sciences face two primary challenges: the challenge to teach the mathematical basis of statistical methodologies and the challenge to inspire critical thinking about the use of statistical methods. Through a course re-design we sought to create a lecture focus on the controversies surrounding the selection of statistical methods and the principles of argument supporting a scientific claim using statistical results. Our goal was to enhance student participation, enjoyment, and learning in a large introductory statistics course by separating the necessary instruction in data management and computation from the presentation and discussion of best practices and informed decision making in data analysis.

Bachelor of Science majors in psychology are required to take this two-quarter introductory statistical methods sequence. These classes follow a required research methods class, and have a single quarter calculus prerequisite.

Evaluation methods include: Informal mid-sequence evaluations, formal end of course evaluations, statistics for course participation in an online discussion board, and student enrollment in a follow-up course focused on the issues and controversies that surround common statistical methods. These results are presented in addition to qualitative changes in course effectiveness, such as efficiency of disseminating information across lecture and section and student and teacher engagement in discussion.


Index of Symposium Presenters