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Length of term and levels of statistics anxiety: a comparison of types of offerings.

ABSTRACT

Does the way a course in Business Statistics is offered affect the levels of statistics anxiety of the students in the class? The Statistics Anxiety Rating Scale (STARS) was administered to students during the first week of four different types of offerings: MWF (fifteen week semester, 50 minutes in length); MW (fifteen week semester, 75 minutes in length; MTWRF (summer session, 90 minutes in length); and MTWRF (intersession, 180 minutes in length). There were 95 subjects in the first group, 57 subjects in the second group, 33 subjects in the intersession class, and 46 subjects taking statistics in summer school. One-way ANOVA was used to see if there was any difference in the four groups. If a significant difference existed, Fisher's LSD was then used to determine which group or groups differed. Results, in general, showed that the length of the class affected the level of statistics anxiety in three of the six factors identified by STARS. Further examination showed that the accelerated courses, either in the summer session or in the intersession, resulted in significantly higher levels of statistics anxiety courses than either type of offering during the regular semester.

BACKGROUND

In the spirit of Corey's "Action Research" of the 1950s, the Statistics Anxiety Rating Scale (STARS) was administered at the beginning of the course in four different types of offerings, namely MWF (regular semester), MW (regular semester), summer session, and intersession. The classes were taught by the same instructor, used the same textbook and utilized similar methods of instruction. What is "Action Research"? It is defined by Corey to be "deliberate, solution-oriented investigation which is designed, conducted, and implemented by teachers themselves in order to improve teaching in the classroom" (Corey, 1954). Previous research found that the length of the term affected the levels of statistics anxiety (Bell, 2001). This study expands on the sample size as well as adding a different type of offering, namely a traditional MWF class. An earlier study found that international students scored significantly higher, indicating more anxiety, on several of the factors identified by the instrument (Bell, 1998). Other studies found that nontraditional students also scored significantly higher on some factors identified by STARS (Bell, 2002 & Bell, 2003). Will students who opt for business statistics in an accelerated time frame exhibit higher levels of statistics anxiety?

METHOD

Participants in this longitudinal study included ninety-five students in a regular semester MWF class (fifty minutes), fifty-seven in a regular semester MW class (seventy-five minutes), thirty-three students in an intersession class (one hundred-eighty minutes), and forty-six studying statistics in summer school (ninety minutes). One-way ANOVA was used to determine differences in the anxiety levels of the various offerings, then Fisher's LSD was used to determine where the differences were. The data analysis features of Excel were used throughout. The data were gathered from 1998 to 2002.

INSTRUMENT

STARS consists of two parts. The first part presents twenty-eight situations often associated with statistics anxiety. These items are scored on a Likert-type scale from one to five, with a "one" indicating no anxiety with that situation while a "five" indicates considerable anxiety. The second part consists of twenty-eight statements dealing with statistics, with responses recorded on a Likert-type scale from one (no anxiety) to five (considerable anxiety). Hence, the lower the score, the lower the anxiety level. Six factors are revealed in STARS: worth of statistics, interpretation anxiety, test and class anxiety, computation self-concept, fear of asking for help, and fear of statistics teachers (Cruise, 1985).

Factor 1--Worth of Statistics--This factor deals with a student's perception of the value of a statistics course. A person scoring high on this factor sees little or no value in a statistics course. A student scoring high on this factor also feels that statistics does not "fit" their personality, thus indicating a negative attitude toward statistics (Cruise, 1985).

Factor 2--Interpretation Anxiety--This factor is concerned with anxiety rising from interpreting statistical data. This could arise from deciding which statistical test to use or what to do with the null hypothesis (Cruise, 1985).

Factor 3--Test and Class Anxiety--The factor deals with anxiety related to taking a statistics course or examination. The student that scores high on this factor experiences anxiety when enrolling in or taking a statistics course, solving statistical problems, or taking an actual statistics test (Cruise, 1985).

Factor 4--Computation Self-concept--This factor reveals anxiety associated with actual mathematical computations, thus relating to classical mathematics anxiety. The student that scores high on this factor experiences anxiety because it involves mathematical calculations and the student feels inadequate when comprehending statistics (Cruise, 1985).

Factor 5--Fear of Asking for Help--A high score on this factor reveals a fear of asking a fellow student or the professor for assistance with statistics problems (Cruise, 1985).

Factor 6--Fear of Statistics Teachers--This factor deals with the perception of the statistics teacher. A person scoring high on this factor questions "the humanness of the teacher". This person views the statistics teacher as "lacking the ability to relate to the student as a human being" (Cruise, 1985).

DISCUSSION

Factor 1--Worth of Statistics--One-way ANOVA revealed no significant differences in the four types of offerings .The means and percentiles of the four groups are shown below.

Factor 2--Interpretation Anxiety--The groups differed significantly on this factor (F = 2.994, p =.032). Subsequent pair-wise comparisons using Fisher's LSD revealed that summer session students scored significantly higher, indicating more anxiety, than either the MWF regular semester students (t = -2.728, p < .01) or the MW regular semester students (t = -2.366, p < .01) (Anderson, 1996). The means and percentiles are shown below.

Factor 3--Test and Class anxiety--Differences were noted on this factor (F = 6.610, p = .0003). Subsequent pair-wise comparisons revealed several significant differences. Regular semester MWF students exhibited lower levels of anxiety than either intersession students (t = -3.92, p < .001) or summer students (t = -3.54, p < .001). Regular semester MWF students also had lower anxiety levels than regular semester MW students (t = -1.69, p < .05). Intersession students had higher anxiety levels than regular semester MW students (t = 1.97, p < .05). Students opting for the summer course also had significantly higher levels of statistics anxiety than regular semester MW students. Means and percentiles for the four groups are shown below.

Factor 4--Computation Self-concept--One-way ANOVA found significant differences between the four groups on this factor also. Pair-wise comparisons revealed that summer students had significantly higher levels of statistics anxiety than regular semester MWF students (t = -2.903, p < .005), regular semester MW students (t = -2.76, p < .005), and intersession students (t = -1.829, p < .05). The table that follows shows the respective means and percentiles.

Factor 5--Fear of Asking for Help--No significant differences were observed for this factor. Means and percentiles for the four groups are shown below.

Factor 6--Fear of the Statistics Teacher--No significant differences were noted for this factor. The mean and percentiles are shown below.

CONCLUSIONS

The length of the course appears to have some relationship to the anxiety levels experienced by the respective students in those classes. The length of the individual class, ranging from fifty minutes to 180 minutes, appears to be of utmost importance. Students taking business statistics in an accelerated format, such as a summer session or an intersession have significantly higher levels of statistics anxiety than those students who take statistics during the regular session. The better offering appears to be those with shorter class times, or in other words, more class meetings. The traditional MWF (three times a week) or MW (twice a week) have lower levels of statistics anxiety. Should these results be interpreted to mean that statistics should not be offered in accelerated time formats? Absolutely not. The instructor should only be aware that the students in these classes face more difficult challenges than those in traditional classes. Could the student be "forced" into such classes due to dropping a course? It might be pointed out that statistics is one of the prerequisites for upper division courses. Perhaps anxiety may be higher for all such classes. Techniques such as open books/notes, posting solved copies outside the classroom, collaborative testing, and extensive use of calculators were successful in lowering anxiety levels, but more so for better prepared students, namely those with a background in calculus (Bell, 2001). A recent trend for teaching business statistics has been to incorporate personal computers. Will this approach lower levels of statistics anxiety, or will the cyber phobia further complicate matters?

REFERENCES

Anderson, D. R., Sweeney, D. J. & Williams, T. A. (1996). Statistics for business and economics (Sixth Edition). New York, NY: West Publishing Company.

Bell, J. A. (1998). International students have statistics anxiety too. Education, 118(4), 634-636.

Bell, J. A. (2001) Length of course and levels of statistics anxiety. Education, 121(4), 713-716.

Bell, J. A. (2002). The nontraditional student and statistics anxiety. In D. Moore & S. Fullerton (Eds.), International

Business Trends: Contemporary Business Readings (pp. 173-176). Ypsilanti, MI: Academy of Business Administration.

Bell, J. A. (2003). Statistics anxiety: The nontraditional student. Education, 124(1), 157-162.

Bell, J. A. (2003). Can levels of statistics anxiety be significantly altered? The International Journal of Business Disciplines. 14(2), 31-34.

Corey, S. M. (1954). Action research in education. Journal of Education for Teaching, 7, 176-186.

Cruise, R. J., Cash, R. W. & Bolton, D. L. (1985, August). Development and Validation of an Instrument to Measure Statistics Anxiety, Proceedings of the American Statistical Association, 92-96.

James A. Bell, University of Central Arkansas
Table 1: Factor I--Worth of Statistics

Type of Class Mean Percentile

MWF 34.26 58th
MW 34.35 58th
Intersession 35.96 66th
Summer 38.00 66th

Table 2: Factor 2--Interpretation Anxiety

Type of Class Mean Percentile

MWF 26.00 61st
MW 26.14 61st
Intersession 27.88 70th
Summer 29.24 73rd

Table 3: Factor 3--Test and Class Anxiety

Type of Class Mean Percentile

MWF 24.15 55th
MW 25.84 64th
Intersession 28.33 72nd
Summer 27.85 72nd

Table 4: Factor 4--Computation Self-concept

Type of Class Mean Percentile

MWF 14.71 56th
MW 14.73 56th
Intersession 15.12 56th
Summer 17.41 64th

Table 5: Factor 5--Fear of Asking for Help

Type of Class Mean Percentile

MWF 8.96 42nd
MW 8.28 60th
Intersession 9.39 70th
Summer 9.83 77th

Table 6: Factor 6--Fear of the Statistics Teacher

Type of Class Mean Percentile

MWF 9.97 42nd
MW 9.82 42nd
Intersession 10.06 42nd
Summer 10.17 42nd
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Title Annotation:Manuscripts
Author:Bell, James A.
Publication:Academy of Information and Management Sciences Journal
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:1738
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