Extended instruction in one day offers challenges
November 25th, 2008 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I recently taught a day-long statistics class.  That should be enough to make anyone shudder, but please feel free to keep reading . . .

As part of the semester teaching assignment I have at Western Connecticut State University, the course has an extended Saturday class – 7.5 hours!  Clearly planning for that length of instruction with adult learners was a challenge.  When I began thinking about such an experience, I was really careful to ensure that the day got broken up into parts and that the learners would have a chance for some experiential, tangible learning.  I also had the opportunity to bridge from their other course:  Learning and Cognition. 

When I was originally hired to teach the course, I spoke with the program director, who was also teaching the second course the students were taking.  We discussed the extended day, and I said that it would be really great (cool) if we could connect the two courses together in some meaningful way.  The Learning class has the students observe a teacher (or video tape themselves) and analyze the instruction using an instrument called the CPR (Classroom Practices Record).  The CPR examines incidents of higher order thinkingquestioning in both students and teachers.  Since students had to observe both pre and post, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to analyze data.

Therefore, the topic of the day was chi square, a nonparametric statistical procedure that has many benefits in educational research, and direct application to the CPR data that was collected.  I did a standard, direct instruction introduction to discuss the overarching concepts:

Following the instruction, I had the students participate in a hands-on activity using M&Ms to determine if the package (observed) contained what the company said would be present (expected).  The students appeared to aggressively engage in the activity. 

For me, one of the most facinating parts of the lesson was the inputing of a live data sheet.  I had established a spreadsheet on my Google Docs account and embedded the link in the PowerPoint.  When we got to that section, students entered their data, and on the projector we could actually watch in real time as data appeared.  It almost looked like watching live election returns.  Talk about a classic example of reconfiguring!  New information was being provided to the class (and actually the world at large) in real time.  There was no waiting, students could acquire and use their classmates information as it actually came into existence.  Can you imagine learning based on class data without any lag time?

After data entry, analysis on the M&Ms took place and students were relatively able to work at their own paces.  I think I was able to provide some one-on-one attention, although I’m not sure if everyone got entirely what they needed.  Nonetheless, I think most (if not all) students walked away with a clear understanding of the chi square statistic, and certainly had a major portion of their CPR project completed.

I would be remiss to also add that I also brought in three guest speakers to discuss their research interests and how statistics helped them bring meaning and understanding to their passions.

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