Penn State University

How would you assess the transferability of the re-design approach you employed to new subject areas or disciplines?

We think that the most transferable aspect of the re-design is the overall concept consisting of the following components:

  • Assigned readings/homework prior to class meetings.
  • Opportunities for question/answer/guidance feedback on the readings that were assigned.
  • Readiness Assessment Testing of student preparation for applications.
  • Applications/discussions of concepts, with both individual and group activities (hands-on experience and group collaboration).
  • Follow-up student assessment/summarization of topics/concepts covered in the previous three components.

The use of RATs is definitely applicable in most disciplines. Our collaborators (Schreyer Institute for Innovation in Learning) are already involved with other groups on campus and are spreading the word about their value. An 'innovation community' has been formed with several faculty from different disciplines meeting and discussing how RATs are best used.

Our experience is being closely monitored by the university administration as a model to be used in other redesign projects. The experience gained by those collaborating with us will enhance their effectiveness in working with other groups around the university in future projects.

We have also developed course materials that could easily be transferable for courses in statistics, including

  • Computer lab activities
  • Study guides
  • RATs
  • Supplementary readings
  • Guides for choosing the appropriate statistical techniques to use
  • Minitab reference documents
  • Structure of our Web site

Through our use of Readiness Assessment Testing we have compiled a large amount of data on which concepts students have misconceptions or difficulties understanding. For example in the fall semester here we administered six RATs, with over 900 student responses on each RAT, with item analyses on each question. Based on this experience, we are modifying some of our questions for future RATs. The information we have amassed could be very valuable to other instructors of statistics.

How are you disseminating the re-design among your colleagues?

All colleagues who will be teaching the redesigned Stat 200 course are full participants in our project and are fully supportive of it. The department as a whole has followed our efforts and been kept informed through reports at faculty meetings. Faculty are wishing us well, and hopeful that the redesigned course will enable fulfillment of goals unachieved in the past.

We made a formal presentation to the department about our re-design, including having graduate students and faculty take a RAT in the same way as students do. We have had several presentations university-wide about our course re-design. We had a focus group with faculty members who teach courses for which Elementary Statistics is a prerequisite--they provided us with valuable information. For example we ascertained their views on what they consider to be the most vital statistical concepts students should master.

The department recognizes that the potential for implementing a much better teaching program for graduate students exists. We will no longer have to use ill-prepared TAs (particularly first year ones) in teaching the course. They will be freed of first semester (if not first year) responsibilities to concentrate on their academic programs and training for future teaching responsibilities--because of the greatly diminished numbers of TAs needed (from 12 active TAs to 4 in the new set-up). TAs will be phased into lab service, rather than thrust in regardless of their preparation.

We expect to see the redesign implemented in statistics courses at our Commonwealth Campuses. Plans are underway to bring instructors from the campuses to the main campus to discuss their adoption of the new structure and its portability to their home base. We had a meeting with instructors of statistics at our Commonwealth Campuses to inform them of our course re-design and to invite their participation in various components of it.

It appears that all communities of the university regard our effort as exciting and they are eagerly awaiting assessments of it. The instructors at our campuses were particularly interested as they saw the effort as having substantial implications for them as well.

We have given presentations on our course re-design at the following places:

  • Two annual meetings of the American Statistical Association
  • A conference on 'Beyond the Formulas: IV' at Rochester, New York
  • To department heads of statistics at one meeting of the American Statistical Association.
  • University of Minnesota School of Statistics in Minneapolis
  • James Madison University's Department of Statistics
  • Syllabus Press Mid-Western Conference

There were four things that statisticians were eager to learn that: (1) substantial cost savings were accrued; (2) a program for teaching an elementary statistics course existed that could be used with little preparation by other instructors; (3) the course incorporated hands-on practice with concepts and group collaboration; (4) a way to get students prepared for classes prior to meeting with them had been found and appeared to be effective (referring of course to RATs). It appears that the most convincing aspect of the effort was the fact that we actually did it and with a very large number of students. Some expressed admiration for the effort regardless of whether it worked, but hoped that it would work, given its implications.



Program in Course Redesign Quick Links:

Program In Course Redesign Main Page...

Lessons Learned:
Round 1...
Round II...
Round III...

Round I...
Round II...
Round III...

Project Descriptions:
Sorted by Discipline...
Sorted by Model...
Sorted by Success...
Sorted by Grant Rounds...