EDUCATIONAL STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE THE STUDENTS’ PERCEPTION OF THE RELEVANCE OF STATISTICS IN HUMAN SCIENCES CURSUS
University of Mons (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 2-4 March, 2020
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Our paper presents the results of a research conducted with 520 students starting their university studies in human sciences (psychology and education sciences, humanities and speech therapy). Given the findings of previous researches (Bruyninckx, Couvreur & Landercy, 2002, Couvreur, Bruyninckx, Rebella, De Schryver & Leplat, 2005, Bruyninckx, Couvreur & Eboli, 2005, Dutrieux, Cauchie & Bruyninckx, 2010, Dutrieux, Geva, Cauchie & Bruyninckx, 2012, Cauchie, Bruyninckx, Bodart & Roinich, 2019), the pedagogical team of the Department of Human Development and Data Processing (University of Mons) constantly sought to adapt its teaching practices in order to make the learning of statistics more affordable for these humanities students. They are indeed often reluctant to tackle this type of academic subject. Their motivation can be quickly undermined if they do not see the usefulness of learning statistics for their studies or their professional future.
We thus decided to conduct an experiment following two objectives: firstly, to collect data from the students’ group so that they can further analyse these data during the following exercise sessions (in order to improve the perception of the relevance of statistics for human sciences); secondly, to better understand the way the students apprehend their future statistics training. We chose to evaluate this apprehension from two points of view: we wanted to understand, on the one hand, their emotional state of mind and their potential feeling of uneasiness and, on the other hand, their basic cognitive skills in terms of logical and inference reasoning. We used the Spielberger's Inventory of State-Trait Anxiety Form Y (STAI-Y, 1983, translated by Bruchon-Schweitzer and Paulhan, 1990) to evaluate the possible state of anxiety of the students facing statistical teaching (“State-Anxiety”), compared to their usual anxiety (“Trait-Anxiety”), and the R-85 test, based on Spearman’s theories, which allowed a rapid assessment of mental flexibility and reasoning skills. The data collection process was organized by the teaching staff at the beginning of the academic year, during the first exercise session in September.
Our results show that the students aren’t globally anxious (STAI-Y mean score: 84.58/160), neither in their daily life (“Trait-Anxiety” mean score: 46.57/80) nor about their future statistical training (“State-Anxiety” mean score: 38.01/80). We don’t note any differences between students according to their enrolment status (first-enrolled students or repeating ones) or their cursus (psychology, education or human sciences). The results at the R-85 test are quite low (mean score: 13.93/40) but more detailed analyses show that the mean success rate vary from items to others (from 82.12% to 0.38%). The 20 first items are more successful (56.30% of the students in average) than the 20 last ones (12.80% in average). More than a lack of general competencies in data processing, this issue could reveal processing speed difficulties that could also explain some exams failings: students seem to be unable to quickly analyse a problem and to identify the best problem-solving technique.
Keywords: Educational strategies, Statistics teaching, Human sciences.