Chap. 1: Introduction

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Chap. 2: Nuts & Bolts

Chap. 3: Reform

Chap. 4: In The Classroom

Chap. 5: Descriptive & Bivariate Distributions

Chap. 6: Hypothesis Testing

Chap. 7: Data Analysis

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Chap. 8: Endings & Beginnings

Online Appendices

Reviews of the Book

About the Authors

Minute Papers

Instructors can use minute papers to assess students' familiarity with a topic before class or as a means to assess what students have learned following a class. According to Criswell and Criswell (1995), minute papers involve students providing a brief (e.g., index card) written response to specific questions posed by the instructor. For example, instructors may ask students to identify the most important concept they learned that day, to discuss a specific concept, or identify points of needed clarification. Minute papers often highlight sources of misinformation and inform instructors of areas that they need to reemphasize in subsequent class periods. Instructors can implement minute papers at any time during a class but must use care in designing the exercise. Asking students what they learned that day or found most interesting might be less useful than asking students to define a particular concept or to provide a unique example applying the concept discussed in class. Reid and Reading (2004) used carefully designed minute papers, with accompanying detailed grading rubrics, to test for understanding of variation in their course. They found that minute papers were an effective tool for measuring students' comprehension and assessing statistical thinking.

Case Studies

Instructors may also use case studies to teach statistics. Weinberg and Abramowitz (2002) had students act as statistical consultants when analyzing selected case studies, which included examining if a gender difference existed in salaries at a corporation and evaluating the impact of a program to treat aphasia on patients' quality of life. Students evaluated the methods of data collection, the importance of the questions asked, the impact of extraneous variables, etc. The authors argued that this method increased motivation, active learning, increased ownership of student work, and created a chance for students to see the value of what they were learning.


Computer simulations can help students develop an understanding of statistical abstract concepts (delMas, Garfield, & Chance, 1999; Mills, 2005). Students trained using simulations performed better at related tasks than students who learned using a textbook alone (Lane & Tang, 2000). However, Bodemer, Ploetzner, Bruchmuller, and Hacker (2005) found that students needed to study and integrate information from static sources (e.g., text and pictorial representations) before the presentation of dynamic simulations. In their study, students were not able develop schemas about statistical processes at the same time they were viewing the interactive simulations of these statistical concepts. The authors hypothesized that without prior information, the dynamic simulations overtaxed students' cognitive abilities due to a high cognitive load. Thus, Bodemer et al. recommended that teachers should first present students with introductory information in highly structured learning situations and then engage students with computer simulations.

First Class Meeting

Instructors should carefully plan and orchestrate the first day of class (Perlman & McCann, 2004). Typically, statistics students exhibit a fair amount of anxiety or what Dillon (1982) labeled, "statisticophobia" (p. 117). Consequently, it is imperative that instructors use care in first day activities to create a positive atmosphere for learning (Lucas, 2006). For example, teachers may ask students about their thoughts concerning statistics (Dillon, 1982; Sciutto, 1995). Sciutto recommended the following exercise as a good course icebreaker. Teachers hand out to students a sheet of paper with the words "A class in statistics is like ______" (p. 278). After students complete the simile, the teacher collects the papers, and reads the responses aloud in class. The benefit is twofold. First, students are soon aware that others also may feel as anxious about the course. Second, the responses are often humorous and help to diffuse the existent anxiety in the classroom (See Eggleston and Smith (2004) for additional icebreakers appropriate for use in a variety of psychology classes).

Instructors may also use the first class period to give students a short math pretest and use the results to identify students that may need additional assistance during the course. Students may benefit from taking the pretest as it can provide assurance that they have the math skills necessary to complete the course. The pretest is particularly important given some students may fear that they need to know calculus or matrix algebra to do well in the course. On the contrary, Fraser (1962) described the mathematical knowledge needed for a statistics course as "addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, with an occasional square root thrown in for good measure" (p. 13). Although Frasier's assertion is a bit of an understatement, most introductory statistics courses do not require that students have mastered complex mathematical concepts.

Using Humor

Friedman, Friedman, and Amoo (2002) traced the use of humor in teaching back to at least the time of the Talmudic sages. Humor in the classroom has many beneficial effects including improved motivation, reduced anxiety and stress, the facilitation of collaborative working relationships, improved recall and learning of related information, and greater class enjoyment (Friedman et al., 2002; Lomax & Moosavi, 2002; Pollio & Humphreys, 1996). Additionally, teachers can use humor as a form of a mini-break during class time to reduce tension and provide students the time to process complicated information (Loomans & Kohlberg, 2002). Kher, Molstad, and Donahue (1999) argued that using humor in "dread courses" (p. 400) enhances openness in the classroom and makes teaching more effective. In addition, appropriate humor related to course content can enhance learning. However, the inappropriate use of humor can have the reverse effect and create a hostile classroom.

Berk and Nanda (1998) tested the effects of humor on student learning, student anxiety, and attitudes towards statistics. They found that using seven different forms of humor (they did not test them separately) had a positive impact on students with the greatest impact being on the reduction of anxiety. The authors provided examples of humor used in the syllabus, first-day humor, spontaneous humor, planned in-class humor, humorous problems and data sets, review methods using the format of "Jeopardy!," and the inclusion of humorous material on exams.

Friedman et al. (2002) provided a range of statistics appropriate humor such as a top ten list of reasons to become a statistician including items such as "We may not be normal but we are transformable" and "We are honestly significantly different" (p. 4). In addition, they subdivided their jokes based on specific course content. Lomax and Moosavi (2002) contacted almost 200 statistics educators and asked them to contribute examples of humor used in their classes. The authors compiled the findings into 14 different categories such as central tendency, variability, correlation, and hypothesis testing.

Barnette (1978) described a method of integrating writings of Mark Twain into the course to reduce anxiety and introduce humor. She noted that the introduction of the Twain material not only reduced student anxiety but also facilitated the learning of the related course content from research methods to inferential statistics. Barnette provided a listing of topics and Twain short stories with associated page numbers from his collection of short stories Life on the Mississippi.

So, what do you do if you are not funny? Pollio (2002) stated that instructors could preplan cartoons for inclusion in lecture or more importantly, instructors could just exhibit a natural enthusiasm and joy for teaching. He asserted that enthusiasm created an environment conducive to spontaneous humor and excitement for learning.


Barnette, J. J. (1978). Did Mark Twain ever hear of Sir Ronald Fisher? The CEDR Quarterly, 11, 8-10.

Berk, R. A., & Nanda, J. P. (1998). Effects of jocular instructional methods on attitudes, anxiety, and achievement in statistics courses. International Journal of Humor Research, 11, 383-409.

Bodemer, D., Ploetzner, R., Bruchmuller, K., & Hacker, S. (2005). Supporting learning with interactive multimedia through active integration of representations. Instructional Science, 33, 73-95.

Criswell, J. R., & Criswell, S. J. (1995). Modeling alternative classroom assessment practices in teacher education coursework. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 22, 190-193. Retrieved July 28, 2007, from Academic Search Premier database.

delMas, R., Garfield, J., & Chance, B. (1999). A model of classroom research in action: Developing simulation activities to improve students' statistical reasoning. Journal of Statistics Education, 7(3). Retrieved July 31, 2007 from

Eggleston, T., & Smith, G. (2004). Building community in the classroom through ice-breakers and parting ways. Retrieved July 31, 2007, from the Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology Online Web site:

Fraser, E. D. (1962). The teaching of statistics to psychology students. Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 46, 11-16.

Friedman, H. H., Friedman, L. W., & Amoo, T. (2002). Using humor in the introductory statistics course. Journal of Statistics Education, 10(3). Retrieved July 31, 2007, from

Kher, N., Molstad, S., & Donahue, R. (1999). Using humor in the college classroom to enhance teaching effectiveness in 'dread courses.' College Student Journal, 33, 400-406.

Lane, D. M., & Tang, Z. (2000). Effectiveness of simulation training on transfer of statistical concepts. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 22, 383-396.

Loomans, D., & Kolberg, K. J. (2002). The laughing classroom: Everyone's guide to teaching with humor and play (2nd ed.). Tiburon, CA: H. J. Kramer.

Lucas, S. G. (2006). The first day of class and the rest of the semester. In W. Buskist & S. F. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of the teaching of psychology (pp. 41-45). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Mills, J. D. (2005). Learning abstract statistics concepts using simulation. Educational Research Quarterly, 28, 18-33.

Perlman, B., & McCann, L. I. (2004). The first day of class. In B. Perlman, L. I. McCann, & S. H. McFadden (Eds.), Lessons learned: Practical advice for the teaching of psychology (Vol. 2; pp. 61-69). Washington, DC: American Psychological Society.

Pollio, H. R. (2002). Humor and college teaching. In S. F. Davis & W. Buskist (Eds.), The teaching of psychology: Essays in honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie and Charles L. Brewer (pp. 60-80). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Pollio, H. R., & Humphreys, W. L. (1996). What award-winning lecturers say about their teaching: It's all about connection. College Teaching, 44, 101-106.

Sciutto, M. J. (1995). Student-centered methods for decreasing anxiety and increasing interest level in undergraduate statistics courses. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 22, 277-280.

Weinberg, S. L., & Abramowitz, S. K. (2000). Making general principles come alive in the classroom using an active case studies approach. Journal of Statistics Education, 8(2). Retrieved July 31, 2007, from