Attitudes toward Statistics: The Effort of Learning
Nel Verhoeven
Academic Core, Roosevelt Academy, Middelburg, Netherlands

In order to meet the requirements of the college they attend, students from a broad spectrum of specialties take Introductory Statistics. However, they often find Statistics difficult, it scares them to work with statistical software or formulas and they do not always see the added value of statistics for their future job. As a result, teaching statistics requires a special didactical approach. Therefore it is helpful for teachers to have insight in students' attitudes toward statistics and in changes therein as a result of taking their course.

The paper presented here describes the results of a secondary analysis, following up on a PhD-project that took place in the Netherlands and Flanders from 2005 until 2007. During this project, 2,550 students took part in a pretest-posttest attitude-measurement using the SATS36© questionnaire developed by Schau in 1995; then, student outcomes were analyzed as a function of expectancies, attitudes (Affect, Cognitive Competency, Value, Difficulty, Interest & Effort), individual and institutional factors.

In this paper the focus lies on the special position of Effort in the aforementioned model. Previous results indicate that Effort could possibly function as a mediator between the other 5 attitudes and the prediction of student outcomes, instead of acting as a direct indicator. Furthermore, Effort is assumed to fulfill a twofold function in student achievement models, dependent on the learning approach (deep or surface learning) that students adopt when taking Introductory Statistics.

The first results of this secondary analysis imply that Effort indeed holds this special position. Not only does Effort act as a mediator for the effect of attitude change on student outcomes, but controlling for perceived Difficulty also results in consistent positive correlations between Effort and attitude change on the four remaining components.

Keywords: Attitudes toward statistics; Student outcomes; Effort as a mediator; Deep vs. surface learning approach

Biography: Nel Verhoeven is a coordinator and teacher in Methods & Statistics at Roosevelt Academy in the Netherlands. She teaches Methods & Statistics to undergraduate students at all levels, ranging from introductory statistics to advanced methods. Furthermore, as Head of the Institute for Undergraduate Research, she developed undergraduate research in the Region of Zeeland and as such she set up and supervised many undergraduate research projects already. Her research focusses on student attitudes toward statistics, and the effect attitudes have on student achievement. Furthermore, she focusses on ways to make teaching statistics memorable. Additionally, as a textbook writer, Nel Verhoeven wrote a best selling college textbook for Dutch colleges and universities, that has sold around 70,000 copies already. Together with the didactical approach Nel Verhoeven applies, a whole new method of teaching Statistics is evolving.