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2015 US Conference on Teaching Statistics
“Fun in Statistics Class:
A Vehicle for Students to Make Connections”
D. K. Pearl
Penn State University
J. Weber
Georgia Perimeter College
L. Lesser
The University of Texas at El Paso
Supported in part by Project UPLIFT:
Universal Portability of Learning Increased by Fun Teaching
NSF/EHR/DUE-1141261 (PSU), 1140690 (UTEP), 1140592 (GPC)
Background
 conceptualizations of fun
 20+ modalities of fun listed
 fun connects (or disconnects) with appropriate pedagogy
 sources of statistics fun
(e.g., www.causeweb.org/resources/fun/)
 see Lesser et al. in March 2013 J. of Statistics Education
[Note: on these slides blue titles means we are talking, red
titles means you are talking]
What Makes a Fun Item Good
For Teaching?
 Strong connections to learning objectives
 Minimizes hesitations and supports motivations for
instructors
 Embedded in active and engaging pedagogy
 Efficiency in use of time
What learning objectives could
be taught with these cartoons?
by Randall Munroe (see xkcd.com)
by John Landers
Let’s develop a new Cartoon
Artist: John Landers (www.landers.co.uk)
What are your motivations in
using fun in your classroom?
Instructors’ Motivations

Lesser, et. al. (2013).
What are your hesitations in
using fun in your classroom?
Instructors’ Hesitations

Lesser, et. al. (2013).
What are the risks and rewards
for instructors in using songs?
Using songs effectively at your comfort Level
when used? as students enter, as you return papers, etc.
who sings? (you, musical student, class, MP3)
use of lyrics? (projected, fill-in blanks)
who writes? (you, students, CAUSEweb)
how long? (10 seconds - 4 minutes)
how assessed?
Rank the following by how engaging they
might be for students
• Ask students to write a statistical caption to a cartoon for extra
•
•
•
•
•
•
credit
Tell a statistical joke in class
Ask students to work a statistical “jumble” or crossword puzzle
as homework
Ask students to listen and sing along with a song posted on
course website
Invite a few students to the front of the room to take part in a
magic trick
Ask students to write a Haiku on a statistical topic for extra
credit
Have a cartoon posted on your course website
Checking back in with John
Landers
Project UPLIFT: three urban settings
Two-Year College
University (medium-size)
University (large)
Region of U.S. Southeast
Southwest
Midwest
Student
population
mostly Hispanic
general U.S.
demographic
Type of course Statistical literacy
Statistical literacy
Statistical literacy
Main audience General education
Pre-service teachers
Arts and humanities
Sullivan’s
Utts’
Moore & Notz’s
Fundamentals of
Statistics: Informed
Decisions Using Data
Seeing Through Statistics
Statistics: Concepts &
Controversies
Desire2Learn
Blackboard
Desire2Learn
Text
Learning
management
system
mostly Black
Fall 2013
student-randomized experiment
 53 from 2-year college; 194 from medium-sized university
 All students asked to take pre-tests:
 SATS (Survey of Attitudes Toward Statistics),
 SAM (Statistics Anxiety Measure)
 Half of the students randomized to have “fun inserts” in
content readings accessed via Learning Management System
 All students take midterms/finals with embedded multiplechoice items related to the (12-14) content readings
 All students asked to take post SATS & SAM
“It’s a Sign: A Connection between
Correlation and Slope”
(students randomly assigned to include the blue box)
% Correct with and without (Song) Inserts
Topic
Activeness
Rating
Without song,
n = 88
With Song,
n = 80
Difference
57.3%
9.1%
61.3%
10.0%
4.0%
0.9%
Margin of error:
down with n
down by √n
High
Standard score
High
62.5%
75.0%
12.5%
Correlation/slope
High
60.2%
73.8%
13.6%
Equiprobability bias
High
40.9%
50.0%
9.1%
Multiplicity
(medium university)
High
36.1%
37.0%
0.9%
p-value
(2-yr. college)
High
44.4%
50.0%
5.6%
42.3%
50.0%
7.7%
OVERALL
90% CI on total difference (1.4%, 14.0%) p-value ≈ 0.043
Post Course
SAM and Subscale Results
Measure/
Subscale
Control
n = 59
(avg  se)
Fun
n = 53
(avg  se)
Difference
(lower values
are better)
Anxiety
8.32 ± 0.44
7.53 ± 0.45
0.79
Attitude
Towards Class
7.17 ± 0.26
6.40 ± 0.28
0.77
Fearful
Behavior
12.86 ± 0.42
12.64 ± 0.46
0.22
Attitude
Towards Math
12.46 ± 0.73
12.25 ± 0.64
0.21
Performance
9.80 ± 0.36
10.26 ± 0.39
0.46
SAM total
50.61 ± 1.51
49.08 ± 1.71
1.53
Other Findings
 Little/no change in Student Attitudes between
experimental and control groups
 Significant Correlation between “Effectiveness” and
“Activeness” for non-song items
Tips for Using Fun in Teaching
Statistics:
Considerations for classroom use of fun
Lesser and Pearl (2008 JSE)
 Course goal or statistical concept associated with the
item
 Where used (e.g., in class, on website)
 What to do/say/ask before using the fun item to “set it up”
 What to do/say/ask after using the fun item
let’s illustrate using this cartoon
by John Landers
let’s illustrate using the song
“Mean”
Checking back in with John
Landers
Modeling the Use of Fun:
Participant groups share their developed item.
Key References
STATISTICS FUN:
https://causeweb.org/resources/fun/
Lesser, L. M.; Wall, A.; Carver, R.; Pearl, D. K.; Martin, N.; Kuiper, S.; Posner, M.
A.; Erickson, P.; Liao, S.-M.; Albert, J., & Weber, J. J. (2013). Using fun in the
statistics classroom: An exploratory study of college instructors’ hesitations and
motivations. Journal of Statistics Education, 21(1), 1-33.
Lesser, L. & Pearl, D. (2008). Functional fun in statistics teaching: Resources,
research, and recommendations. Journal of Statistics Education, 16(3), 1-11.
Lesser, L.; Pearl, D.; Reyes, R.; & Weber, J. (2014, May 20) “Bridging the
Disciplines with Fun: Resources and research”, competitively-selected breakout
session for second Electronic Conference on Teaching Statistics (eCOTS)
https://www.causeweb.org/ecots/ecots14/32/
AN INSPIRATION FOR THE EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN:
Garner, R. L. (2006). Humor in pedagogy: How ha-ha can lead to aha! College
Teaching, 54(1), 177-180.
INSTRUMENT:
Earp, M.A. (2007). Development and validation of the Statistics Anxiety Measure.
University of Denver. http://iaseweb.org/documents/dissertations/07.Earp.Dissertation.pdf
QUESTIONS?
Dennis Pearl: [email protected]
Larry Lesser: [email protected]
John Weber: [email protected]
THANKS FOR YOUR INTEREST!
Please join us for Birds of a Feather discussion on Study of
Fun during lunch on Saturday in room 113
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