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Building a stronger base of conceptual understanding in Introduction to Statistics

Analysis of instructor interviews and course grade performance among recent adopters of Wiley’s Statistics: Unlocking the Power of Data (Lock, Lock, Lock Morgan, Lock & Lock)

Contents 2. Introduction 3. Executive Summary 4. Drivers for adoption of Lock, Statistics 5. Impact of the Lock approach on instructor experience 6. Impact of the Lock approach on student experience



Real D


Instru ct & Stud or e Resou nt rces

StatKe y

7. Best practices for instructors using Lock, Statistics 8. Appendix: Study methodology, recommended sources

Introduction Statistics, Unlocking the Power of Data, is authored by the five-member Lock family and was first published by Wiley in November, 2012. An evolution of the traditional approach for the onesemester Introductory Statistics course, Statistics focuses on building an early conceptual understanding of statistical inference fundamentals through intuitive and visually-rich simulation-based methods (randomization hypothesis testing and booststrap confidence intervals). The Locks’ goal is to help students learn how to use statistics and develop their ability to describe and analyze data. While the text also includes the more traditional methods like t-tests, chi-square tests, etc., these formulas are introduced only after students have developed a strong intuitive understanding of inference through randomization methods. The stronger base of conceptual understanding is designed to help students to better understand statistics as a whole and contribute to a higher level of quantitative literacy for their college career and beyond. What impact does this different approach have on student and instructor experience, and how can instructors best leverage the book and its accompanying resources for student success? Wiley studied these questions with a series of in-depth interviews among instructors who’ve used the book in their Introductory Statistics classes to explore their experiences and their perceptions about the impact of the Lock approach on student learning. This paper examines findings from the interviews and grade analysis and highlights best practices for instructors to successfully transition to the Lock approach for teaching Introduction to Statistics. (See Appendix page 8 for study methodology details.)

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“What we teach is largely the technical machinery of numerical approximations based on the normal distribution and its many subsidiary cogs. This machinery was once necessary, because the conceptually simpler alternative based on permutations was computationally beyond our reach. Before computers statisticians had no choice. These days we have no excuse. Randomization-based inference makes a direct connection between data production and the logic of inference that deserves to be at the core of every introductory course.” —George Cobb, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Statistics, Mount Holyoke College, as published in Technology Innovations in Statistical Education, 2007

Executive Summary Introductory Statistics instructors in this study find the Lock approach of introducing simulationbased resampling methods early on to be both a reflection of modern, in-use industry practice and a better, more engaging means of building a solid conceptual understanding of statistics in Algebrabased introductory courses.

Expectations were for a “better mousetrap” in teaching Introductory Statistics. Intrigued initially by the Locks’ innovative approach and the potential of data visualization via the StatKey software, instructors felt that the Lock approach would boost students’ ability to learn and retain knowledge of the “whys” behind the experiments and formulas. Specifically, they expected that use of the Lock, Statistics text would be an easier introduction to the subject (particularly for math-challenged students) and seen by students as more interesting and relevant, which in turn would foster more reading, practice and practical conceptual knowledge.

These expectations were largely met, and all report improved student learning as an outcome of teaching with Lock, Statistics. In qualitative observations, all instructors in the study believe that Lock, Statistics contributed to improved student learning in their Introductory Statistics course. Common evidentiary examples include students commenting favorably on the readability of the Lock text and a noted improvement in students’ ability to articulate thoughtful questions and to accurately describe concepts in their own words. In fact, several instructors note that students performed at a higher level with more detailed answers to qualitative concept questions on exams.

Instructors can optimize success in teaching with Lock, Statistics by leveraging the accompanying resources to build more activity-based learning into the course. Several cite the availability of instructor resources including PowerPoints, videos and a variety of activities as a plus in adapting their course to the Lock approach. In addition, the StatKey software was cited often as an easy-to-use means of helping students to “see” and understand relationships in data without the roadblocks that can occur through the traditional formula-based approach. Most instructors (and several students in course exit survey comments) cite the variety and particular relevance of activities as valuable for generating interest and excitement. Instructors detail their ability to leverage the Lock activities to increase interactive in-class learning and a “hands on” approach to learning statistics, which they believe help students to learn more than straight lecture and note-taking.

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“Statistical knowledge is now becoming so sought-after. We have more and more students who want to take the Intro class and to go on to take other classes, and that means there’s much more variability in the students we’re getting in this course. This is across the board and across the nation, I’m sure. So what these students need to understand to successfully move on are the concepts, not the formulas.” —Instructor, 4-year private university

Drivers for adoption of Lock, Statistics Instructors chose the Lock text due to its more intuitive approach. A desire to raise the bar on student engagement and understanding of statistics factors prominently in the decision to adopt Lock. Instructors in this study are intrigued by the use of more “modern” simulation-based methods and the possibility of better connecting statistics to students’ lives. In fact, several note their excitement in learning the simulation-based methods themselves, which they see as cutting-edge and increasingly in use by industry. In addition to the perceived innovation in incorporating bootstrapping and randomization methods, instructors feel that the approach and use of simulations make statistics more accessible to students, especially non-majors and those whose math skills aren’t well-developed. In particular, StatKey, the simulation software that accompanies the text, is often cited as a means of helping students to engage with data and generate an intuitive understanding of the concepts on which they can build in the future.

Shown: Example of a StatKey randomization from a presentation deck delivered by Patti Frazer Lock and Kari Lock Morgan at AMATYC, 2012

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Decision drivers for adopting Lock, Statistics • Modern approach • Building a visual and conceptual understanding of statistics •Resultant boost to overall quantitative literacy

“I would say that it’s very exciting for me now to teach this class. I look back to prior years, and there was something a little flat about the way I would approach sampling distributions, which is key to statistics. By using resampling techniques, using the software, I think students have this much better grasp now of that concept. It’s less dry and theoretical.” —Instructor, 2-year community college “I was really impressed with the way they were presenting the material, especially the simulation-based methods. I really wanted my students to see these more intuitive ways of thinking about simulations, or ways of thinking about hypothesis tests and confidence intervals.” —Instructor, 4-year private university

Impact of the Lock approach on instructor experience Switching to Lock was a smooth experience and yielded benefits for both instructors and students. Despite its different approach compared to traditional texts, most found the Lock, Statistics organization and availability of datasets, activities and PowerPoints helpful in streamlining their course prep. “Finding good data sets takes a really long time. So the fact that they totally took that job away from me and handed me this wealth of good data sets was by and large my favorite part of using the book.” —Instructor, 4-year private college

For some, the order of the Lock text facilitated the instructor’s process of organizing thoughts and building a cohesive story for students to follow. The inclusion of skillbuilders throughout the chapters is seen as particularly helpful in the student’s journey, so they can test what they need to know to proceed. “The Lock book was an awesome resource for me. I absolutely read every chapter. And so it helped me organize my thoughts so that I could make the lessons coherent and make the lessons motivated...” —Instructor, 2-year community college

Several note the benefit of exposing students to more breadth of statistical knowledge and relatively new approaches in use in industry. Based on their experience with the text, interview participants would recommend Lock, Statistics to other Intro Statistics instructors. Citing the Lock text as more readable, instructors also are drawn by the prospect of a better mousetrap for teaching Introductory Statistics. Several feel that bootstrapping and randomization methods should be taught because they’re “innovative,” reflect what industry is doing, can better capture students’ attention and build a connection with statistics that they hadn’t seen in prior courses. “Lock is a text that students can pick up and read. They can follow the examples. If they do have any difficulty, there are all these resources for them, but there are also these teaching resources for you as an instructor and the visualization that they see with the StatKey is almost priceless. If you really use their activities, you can do some things with your students that you may have never thought about before and help the students understand something much more quickly and at a deeper level than they ever did before.“ —Instructor, 4-year public university “Number one, that this approach should be conceptually easier, and number two, it’s just important material, and it needs to be taught at that level.” —Instructor, 4-year private university

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“They saw more.They got more statistics.They got more for their money. They got a really good book out of the deal. We covered more ground. We did everything that the students do in the regular class, but we also then did all the confidence interval and bootstrapping.” —Instructor, 4-year public university

Impact of the Lock approach on student experience Instructors report more engaged students and improved ability to articulate key concepts. Compared to their prior Introductory Statistics classes, most of the instructors note that students in the Lock-based class were more interested in learning and better able to answer qualitative questions on the concepts. • Instructors feel that students were reading the Lock text more than those in prior classes, citing favorable student comments on the readability of the book, a higher quality of questions in class and better ability to explain concepts accurately in their own words and via qualitative exam questions. • They also felt that students appreciated the variety and relevance of the examples in the book, which boosted interest in working the problems and discovering the results. • For some students, their (surprising) ability to grasp concepts and progress in the class was a confidence boost in their own learning abilities.

“I like how the text used interesting examples and read almost like a story, not a textbook.” —Student

“I like how the textbook eased into each new topic or material by splitting up the content into separate sections. The skillbuilders in the beginning of the homework sections also allowed one to practice the new material.” —Student

“There were lots of questions that you could use to study.” —Student

“I like that it had skillbuilders first and then progressed to word problems.” —Student

“The students seemed to really enjoy the examples from the book, and they latched onto them. They weren’t dry to them, and I think then they absolutely engaged in the examples, and the relevance. A lot of them, in the evaluation, said, ‘Wow, I realized how relevant it is to my life or my interests.’”

—Instructor, 4-year private college

“If they really can get at the big picture, they’ll actually hold onto it beyond just the exams. I feel like the Lock book does an amazing job with that… There are a few students who were very math-phobic at the beginning of the semester, and they said, ‘Wow, I feel so much better about myself in terms of my mathematical abilities,’ or, ‘I thought that I was bad at math, but it turns out I actually am much better than I realized.’” —Instructor, 4-year private university

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Analysis points to a positive effect on student grades attributable to use of Lock, Statistics.

7 out of 7

Instructors interviewed believe that using Lock, Statistics contributed to improved student learning in their Introductory Statistics course.

“I really think that my students left me at the end of the semester with a greater understanding of what hypothesis testing means, what a confidence interval really looks like, why a small P value is rejected as opposed to a large one that is not… Whether it was reflected on a test or not, I think that my students left me with a greater understanding than they might have had in the past.” —Instructor, 4-year public university

Best practices for instructors using Lock, Statistics Leveraging the Lock resources can facilitate both instructor work flow and student learning. Several instructors note that with the Lock book, they were able to incorporate less lecture and more group work and activity-based learning during class time, which helped students to stay engaged while practicing the concepts. “We would just go to the computer lab occasionally to do some analysis. So this time around, because I now was using [Lock] we use class time where for the first half I would lecture, and then the second half they would do a worksheet using the computers, using StatKey, using R. That was a very different, then, structure to the class from what it was before. [Before using Lock] There was much more of me lecturing and them taking notes, and this was a lot more active learning group work sort of thing.” —Instructor, 4-year private college “[StatKey] made it possible to explore this new way of teaching the course computer simulation, being able to create randomization distributions, bootstrap distributions with my students, and explore them together. In the lab setting that I am in, it made it very exciting to do and for them made it an interactive process. They weren’t just watching my lecture.” —Instructor, 2-year public college

Instructors recommend that others considering adoption of Lock, Statistics take advantage of the range of instructor and student resources to streamline their conversion work flows and engage students. “I would say to really take advantage of the resources that the Locks have put together. Don’t reinvent the wheel for yourself. They have the videos, they have the PowerPoints, they have the notes, and they have the activities. I would pick at least one activity per chapter to do with the students and allow yourself time to do the activity and let the students get from the activity what you want them to get as a learning experience...” —Instructor, 4-year public university

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Appendix Details of the Wiley Publishing 2013 study of instructor experience and student learning outcomes: Qualitative research • Seven 30-45-minute telephone interviews conducted among instructors who had taught using Lock, Statistics for at least one course since its November 2012 launch. •Instructors were geographically diverse and included three from 4-year private institutions, two from 4-year public institutions and two from 2-year community colleges. •On average, instructors have 10 years’ experience in teaching Intro Stats; they range from a low of 3 to a high of 15 years. •Instructors were asked about the expectations for their adoption decision, how they used the text and resources in their course, general evaluation of experience, perception of student learning as a result and advice they would give to another instructor about to teach with Lock for the first time.

Recommended resources for instructors: 1. 2010 American Statistical Association Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education (GAISE) supports the Lock approach:

2. Lock Showcase Site, (Information about the Authors, Interactive Chapter, StatKey, WileyPLUS, TED Studies) 3. Lock Author Site, (Overview, Datasets, StatKey Videos, and National Presentations) 4. Instructor and Student Resource Site for Statistics: Unlocking the Power of Data, by Lock, Lock, Lock-Morgan, Lock, and Lock (PowerPoint Lecture Slides, Clicker Questions, Class Activity Handouts, Data Sets, Digital Instructor’s Manual, Instructor Notes, Image Gallery, Support Materials and more) 5. StatKey, (Statistical technology)

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