Impact on Students

Penn State University

Improved Learning

A content-knowledge test of statistics was administered to determine students’ mastery of statistics concepts. The content-knowledge test consisted of 18 items and was developed before the redesign. It was administered at the beginning and the end of the spring 2000, fall 2000, and spring 2001 semesters. During spring 2000, two sections were taught in the traditional format (n=340), and one section was taught as a pilot using the redesigned course format (n=140). Students in the traditional and redesigned sections took the content-knowledge pre-test and post-test. The pre-test average was approximately 50% correct in both cases. The improvement in performance by students in the redesigned class was greatest on concepts. On technical aspects (working with formulas and reading tables, for example), the traditional class performed marginally better.

All told, students in the redesigned class outperformed those in the traditional sections at a statistically significant level (60% correct in the traditional format, 66% in the pilot, and 68% in the redesigned classes). Students in the redesigned class also demonstrated a greater understanding of a number of critical statistical concepts, such as the ability to use population and sample data, construct confidence intervals, reason about percentiles and standard deviations, and conduct tests of hypotheses.

In addition, one instructor administered a 21-item special homework assignment in fall 1998, spring 1999, fall 2000, and spring 2001; two instructors also used the assignment in fall 2001. The assignment involved choosing which one of nine possible statistical techniques was appropriate to use for testing a hypothesis problem. Data for 1998–99 were used for the comparison period because this was the last time the instructor taught the course using the traditional format. Performance on the homework problem was measured using the average percent of correct choices. Students in the redesigned course were able to identify the correct statistical technique about 86.5% of the time, about 11% more than the 78% correct rate for students in the traditional course.

Finally, the average GPA for the course was essentially unchanged in the two delivery formats: 2.97 in the traditional course and 3.02 in the redesigned course.

Other Impacts on Students

The percentage of students who received a D or an F or who dropped the course decreased from a rate of about 12% in the traditional format to about 9.8% in the restructured course.

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