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Playing with Numbers: Bringing Statistics to Life in the Undergraduate Classroom
Unformatted Document Text:  Nordyke, Moulton and Nesbit  Page 6    all of the material collected and analyzed through the various stages of the course. It is important to note that the statistical analysis project is not a research project. The final product produced by students will not read like a traditional student research paper. Getting Started: Creating the Class Database Perhaps one of the most critical stages to the success of the statistical analysis project is the formation of the class database. In our experience, instructors incorporating a research component to an undergraduate statistics class often approach the project like a typical research project—asking students to collect data or identify previously collected data on their own. The problem with this approach is that undergraduate statistics classes are first and foremost statistics classes—not research methods instruction. Thus, students often lack the skills needed to independently collect data, or to locate the appropriate data source. Further, this places a burden on the instructor to understand multiple datasets, and to provide individualized assistance with each dataset. Students are often likely to choose databases that are too complicated for the level of the course. At the other extreme, some instructors provide students with a “canned” dataset. While this alleviates much of the obstacles to student data collection and reduces instructor burden, it reduces the real world problems associated with collecting and organizing data as it exists in the real world. It can also potentially reduce student interest in the project since it doesn’t allow them as much freedom in their choice of research question. Our approach allows students the opportunity to wrestle with the issues of data collection and variable formation in a controlled setting, resulting in one manageable database that becomes central to class examples, homework and instruction throughout the semester. During the first week of class, students are assigned to a topic group for the statistical analysis project (See Appendix). (Students may rank their preferences for various topics that are provided, and then

Authors: Nordyke, Shane., Moulton, Stephanie. and Nesbit, Becky.
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Nordyke, Moulton and Nesbit 
Page 6 
 
all of the material collected and analyzed through the various stages of the course. It is important
to note that the statistical analysis project is not a research project. The final product produced by
students will not read like a traditional student research paper.
Getting Started: Creating the Class Database
Perhaps one of the most critical stages to the success of the statistical analysis project is
the formation of the class database. In our experience, instructors incorporating a research
component to an undergraduate statistics class often approach the project like a typical research
project—asking students to collect data or identify previously collected data on their own. The
problem with this approach is that undergraduate statistics classes are first and foremost statistics
classes—not research methods instruction. Thus, students often lack the skills needed to
independently collect data, or to locate the appropriate data source. Further, this places a burden
on the instructor to understand multiple datasets, and to provide individualized assistance with
each dataset. Students are often likely to choose databases that are too complicated for the level
of the course. At the other extreme, some instructors provide students with a “canned” dataset.
While this alleviates much of the obstacles to student data collection and reduces instructor
burden, it reduces the real world problems associated with collecting and organizing data as it
exists in the real world. It can also potentially reduce student interest in the project since it
doesn’t allow them as much freedom in their choice of research question.
Our approach allows students the opportunity to wrestle with the issues of data collection
and variable formation in a controlled setting, resulting in one manageable database that becomes
central to class examples, homework and instruction throughout the semester. During the first
week of class, students are assigned to a topic group for the statistical analysis project (See
Appendix). (Students may rank their preferences for various topics that are provided, and then


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