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The Impact of an Interactive Statistics Module on Novices’ Development of Scientific Process Skills and Attitudes in a First-Semester Research Foundations Course

    Authors: Lynnsay A. Marsan1, Christina E. D’Arcy2, Jeffrey T. Olimpo2,*
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    Affiliations: 1: Campus Office for Undergraduate Research Initiatives (COURI), The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79968; 2: Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79968
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 02 December 2016
    • ©2016 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Supplemental materials available at http://asmscience.org/jmbe
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Biological Sciences, The University of Texas at El Paso, B226A, Biology Bldg., El Paso, TX 79968. Phone: 915-747-6923. E-mail: [email protected].
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 436-443. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1137
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    Abstract:

    Evidence suggests that incorporating quantitative reasoning exercises into existent curricular frameworks within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines is essential for novices’ development of conceptual understanding and process skills in these domains. Despite this being the case, such studies acknowledge that students often experience difficulty in applying mathematics in the context of scientific problems. To address this concern, the present study sought to explore the impact of active demonstrations and critical reading exercises on novices’ comprehension of basic statistical concepts, including hypothesis testing, experimental design, and interpretation of research findings. Students first engaged in a highly interactive height activity that served to intuitively illustrate normal distribution, mean, standard deviation, and sample selection criteria. To enforce practical applications of standard deviation and -value, student teams were subsequently assigned a figure from a peer-reviewed primary research article and instructed to evaluate the trustworthiness of the data. At the conclusion of this exercise, students presented their evaluations to the class for open discussion and commentary. Quantitative assessment of pre- and post-module survey data indicated a statistically significant increase both in students’ scientific reasoning and process skills and in their self-reported confidence in understanding the statistical concepts presented in the module. Furthermore, data indicated that the majority of students (>85%) found the module both interesting and helpful in nature. Future studies will seek to develop additional, novel exercises within this area and to evaluate the impact of such modules across a variety of STEM and non-STEM contexts.

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References & Citations

1. American Association for the Advancement of Science 2011 Vision and change in undergraduate biology education: a call to action: a summary of recommendations made at a national conference organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science July 15–17, 2009 Washington, DC
2. Armbruster P, Patel M, Johnson E, Weiss M 2009 Active learning and student-centered pedagogy improve student attitudes and performance in introductory biology CBE Life Sci Educ 8 203 213 10.1187/cbe.09-03-0025 19723815 2736024 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.09-03-0025
3. Brownell SE, et al 2014 How students think about experimental design: novel conceptions revealed by in-class activities Bioscience 64 125 137 10.1093/biosci/bit016 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bit016
4. Feser J, Vasaly H, Herrera J 2013 On the edge of mathematics and biology integration: improving quantitative skills in undergraduate biology education CBE Life Sci Educ 12 124 128
5. Freeman S, et al 2014 Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111 8410 8415 10.1073/pnas.1319030111 24821756 4060654 http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1319030111
6. Goldstein J, Flynn DFB 2011 Integrating active learning & quantitative skills into undergraduate introductory biology curricula Am Biol Teach 73 454 461 10.1525/abt.2011.73.8.6 http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/abt.2011.73.8.6
7. Hester S, Buxner S, Elfring L, Nagy L 2014 Integrating quantitative thinking into an introductory biology course improves students’ mathematical reasoning in biological contexts CBE Life Sci Educ 13 54 64 24591504 3940463
8. Makarevitch I, Frechette C, Wiatros N 2015 Authentic research experience and “big data” analysis in the classroom: maize response to abiotic stress CBE Life Sci Educ 14 ar27
9. Metz AM 2008 Teaching statistics in biology: using inquiry-based learning to strengthen understanding of statistical analysis in biology laboratory courses CBE Life Sci Educ 7 317 326 10.1187/cbe.07-07-0046 18765754 2527987 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.07-07-0046
10. National Research Council 2003 BIO2010: transforming undergraduate education for future research biologists The National Academies Press Washington, DC
11. National Research Council 2009 A new biology for the 21st century The National Academies Press Washington, DC
12. Speth EB, et al 2010 1, 2, 3, 4: infusing quantitative literacy into introductory biology CBE Life Sci Educ 9 323 332 10.1187/cbe.10-03-0033 20810965 2931680 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.10-03-0033
13. Springer L, Stanne ME, Donovan SS 1999 Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: a meta-analysis Rev Educ Res 69 21 51 10.3102/00346543069001021 http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/00346543069001021
14. Tritelli D 2004 From the Editor Peer Rev 7 1

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2016-12-02
2019-03-21

Abstract:

Evidence suggests that incorporating quantitative reasoning exercises into existent curricular frameworks within the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines is essential for novices’ development of conceptual understanding and process skills in these domains. Despite this being the case, such studies acknowledge that students often experience difficulty in applying mathematics in the context of scientific problems. To address this concern, the present study sought to explore the impact of active demonstrations and critical reading exercises on novices’ comprehension of basic statistical concepts, including hypothesis testing, experimental design, and interpretation of research findings. Students first engaged in a highly interactive height activity that served to intuitively illustrate normal distribution, mean, standard deviation, and sample selection criteria. To enforce practical applications of standard deviation and -value, student teams were subsequently assigned a figure from a peer-reviewed primary research article and instructed to evaluate the trustworthiness of the data. At the conclusion of this exercise, students presented their evaluations to the class for open discussion and commentary. Quantitative assessment of pre- and post-module survey data indicated a statistically significant increase both in students’ scientific reasoning and process skills and in their self-reported confidence in understanding the statistical concepts presented in the module. Furthermore, data indicated that the majority of students (>85%) found the module both interesting and helpful in nature. Future studies will seek to develop additional, novel exercises within this area and to evaluate the impact of such modules across a variety of STEM and non-STEM contexts.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Pre-, post-, and delayed posttest analyses of student performance on the E-EDAT and GI following participation in the module reveal a positive impact of the statistics module on students’ development of scientific process and reasoning skills. * < 0.025; ** < 0.001. E-EDAT = expanded experimental design ability tool; GI = graphical interpretation.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 436-443. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1137
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Post-module shifts in students’ confidence in understanding and applying basic statistical concepts are indicative of self-reported development of essential statistical knowledge. < 0.004 for all comparisons.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 436-443. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1137
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Image of FIGURE 3

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FIGURE 3

Student perceptions regarding the degree to which module activities were helpful and interesting in nature are positive, indicating a high level of utility among all components of the statistics module. “Not Helpful/Interesting” represents the percentage of students indicating a Likert-item score of one (“1”) or two (“2”). “Helpful/Interesting” represents the percentage of students indicating a Likert-item score of three (“3”). “Extremely Helpful/Interesting” represents the percentage of students indicating a Likert-item score of four (“4”) or five (“5”).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 436-443. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1137
Download as Powerpoint

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