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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: jtolimpo@utep.edu.
    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 Science2011Vision 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 ScienceJuly 15–17, 2009Washington, DC
2. Armbruster P, Patel M, Johnson E, Weiss M2009Active learning and student-centered pedagogy improve student attitudes and performance in introductory biologyCBE Life Sci Educ820321310.1187/cbe.09-03-0025197238152736024 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.09-03-0025
3. Brownell SE, et al2014How students think about experimental design: novel conceptions revealed by in-class activitiesBioscience6412513710.1093/biosci/bit016 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bit016
4. Feser J, Vasaly H, Herrera J2013On the edge of mathematics and biology integration: improving quantitative skills in undergraduate biology educationCBE Life Sci Educ12124128
5. Freeman S, et al2014Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematicsProc Natl Acad Sci USA1118410841510.1073/pnas.1319030111248217564060654 http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1319030111
6. Goldstein J, Flynn DFB2011Integrating active learning & quantitative skills into undergraduate introductory biology curriculaAm Biol Teach7345446110.1525/abt.2011.73.8.6 http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/abt.2011.73.8.6
7. Hester S, Buxner S, Elfring L, Nagy L2014Integrating quantitative thinking into an introductory biology course improves students’ mathematical reasoning in biological contextsCBE Life Sci Educ135464245915043940463
8. Makarevitch I, Frechette C, Wiatros N2015Authentic research experience and “big data” analysis in the classroom: maize response to abiotic stressCBE Life Sci Educ14ar27
9. Metz AM2008Teaching statistics in biology: using inquiry-based learning to strengthen understanding of statistical analysis in biology laboratory coursesCBE Life Sci Educ731732610.1187/cbe.07-07-0046187657542527987 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.07-07-0046
10. National Research Council2003BIO2010: transforming undergraduate education for future research biologistsThe National Academies PressWashington, DC
11. National Research Council2009A new biology for the 21st centuryThe National Academies PressWashington, DC
12. Speth EB, et al20101, 2, 3, 4: infusing quantitative literacy into introductory biologyCBE Life Sci Educ932333210.1187/cbe.10-03-0033208109652931680 http://dx.doi.org/10.1187/cbe.10-03-0033
13. Springer L, Stanne ME, Donovan SS1999Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: a meta-analysisRev Educ Res69215110.3102/00346543069001021 http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/00346543069001021
14. Tritelli D2004From the EditorPeer Rev71
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2016-12-02
2017-09-20

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
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