Teaching Statistics to MSW Students: Comparing Credit and Non-Credit Options

  • Ashley Davis Wheelock College
  • Rebecca G. Mirick Salem State University
Keywords: Statistics, research, teaching approaches, MSW students

Abstract

In professional disciplines like social work, students are expected to be able to understand and apply basic statistical concepts. Graduate programs differ in how they expect students to develop this ability; some require a full-credit statistics course as a prerequisite to admission, and others incorporate statistics into social work research courses. The for-credit requirement has a high financial and time cost for students. This exploratory study examined the feasibility of replacing this requirement with a brief, non-credit statistics course. MSW students (n=168) who took both types of courses were surveyed. No association was found between the type of course and students’ anxiety, confidence, and the perceived relevance of statistics. Students identified factors that impeded or facilitated their learning. The inclusion of the statistics course within the social work program and the use of relevant social work literature was perceived as supporting students’ learning of statistics. The course length was no more of a concern for the non-credit statistics students than for the for-credit students. These findings support the use of a brief, non-credit statistics course as a less costly and time-consuming approach, but raises concerns about consistently high levels of anxiety, and low levels of confidence and statistics ability of MSW students. 

Author Biography

Ashley Davis, Wheelock College
Assistant Professor, Social Work Department

References

Barnett, S., & Ceci, S. (2002). When and where do we apply what we learn?: A taxonomy for far transfer. Psychological Bulletin, 128(4), 612-637. doi: https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.128.4.612
Barretti, M. (2004). What do we know about the professional socialization of our students? Journal of Social Work Education, 40, 255-283. doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2004.10778493
Bolen, R. (2006). Utilizing web‐based databases to introduce social work content in research statistics courses. Social Work Education, 25, 17-27. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/02615470500477805
Bolin, B., Lee, K., GlenMaye, L., & Yoon, D. (2012). Impact of research orientation on attitudes toward research of social work students. Journal of Social Work Education, 48(2), 223-243. doi: https://doi.org/10.5175/JSWE.2012.200900120
Calderwood, K. (2002). Incorporating multiple epistemologies into teaching statistics to social work students. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 22, 17-32. doi: https://doi.org/10.1300/J067v22n01_03
Capshew, T. (2005). Motivating social work students in statistics courses. Social Work Education, 248, 857-868. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/02615470500342207
Council on Social Work Education. (2015). Educational policy and accreditation standards. Alexandria, VA: Author.
Curran, E., Carlson, K., & Celotta, D. (2013). Changing attitudes and facilitating understanding in the undergraduate statistics classroom: A collaborative learning approach. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(2), 49-71.
Daniel, F., & Braasch, J. (2013). Application exercises improve transfer of statistical knowledge in real-world situations. Teaching of Psychology, 403, 200-207. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628313487462
Davis, S. (2003). Statistics anxiety among female African American graduate-level social work students. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 23(3-4), 143-158. doi: https://doi.org/10.1300/J067v23n03_12
Davis, A., & Mirick. R. G. (2015). MSW students’ perceptions of relevance and application of statistics: Implications for field education. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 35(3), 317-336. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2015.1040531
Edmond, T., Megivern, D., Williams, C., Rochman, E., & Howard, M. (2006). Integrating evidence-based practice and social work field education. Journal of Social Work Education, 42(2), 377-396. doi: https://doi.org/10.5175/JSWE.2006.200404115
Elliott, W., Choi, E., & Friedline, T. (2013). Online statistics labs in MSW research methods courses: Reducing reluctance toward statistics. Journal of Social Work Education, 491, 81-95. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2013.755095
Gelman, C. (2004). Anxiety experienced by foundation-year MSW students entering field placement: Implications for admissions, curriculum, and field education. Journal of Social Work Education, 401, 39-54. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2004.10778478
Goldstein, G. (2007). Using classroom assessment techniques in an introductory statistics class. College Teaching, 552, 77-82. doi: https://doi.org/10.3200/CTCH.55.2.77-82
Gordon, S. (2004). Understanding students’ experiences of statistics in a service course. Statistics Education Research Journal, 31, 40-59.
Harder, J. (2010). Overcoming MSW students' reluctance to engage in research. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 30(2), 195-209. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/08841231003705404
IBM Corp. (2012). Released 2012. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 21.0. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp.
Junius, P., & Sidell, N. (2009). Dispelling fear and loathing: Engaging mathematically challenged students to learn statistics. Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work, 142, 49-61.
Knight, C. (2015). Social work students’ use of the peer-reviewed literature and engagement in evidence-based practice. Journal of Social Work Education, 51(2), 250-269. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2015.1012924
Lalayants, M. (2012). Overcoming graduate students' negative perceptions of statistics. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 324, 356-375. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2012.705259
Lesser, L. M. (2007). Critical values and transforming data: Teaching statistics with social justice. Journal of Statistics Education, 15(1), 1-21.
Lesser, L. M., Wall, A., Carver, R., Pearl, D. K., Martin, N., Kuiper, S.,…Webber, J. J., III. (2013). Using fun in the statistics classroom: An exploratory study of college instructors’ hesitations and motivations. Journal of Statistics Education, 21(1), 1-33. Retrieved from www.amstat.org/publications/jse/v21n1/lesser.pdf
Macheski, G., Buhrmann, J., Lowney, K., & Bush, M. (2008). Overcoming student disengagement and anxiety in theory, methods, and statistics courses by building a community of learners. Teaching Sociology, 361, 42-48. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055X0803600106
Marson, S. (2007). Three empirical strategies for teaching statistics. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 273, 199-213. doi: https://doi.org/10.1300/J067v27n03_13
McGrath, A. (2014). Just checking in the effect of an office hour meeting and learning reflection in an introductory statistics course. Teaching of Psychology, 411, 83-87. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628313514186
Moran, T. (2005). The sociology of teaching graduate statistics. Teaching Sociology, 33, 263-271. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055X0503300303
National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics. Washington, DC: Author.
Neumann, D., Hood, M., & Neumann, M. (2009). Statistics? You must be joking: The application and evaluation of humor when teaching statistics. Journal of Statistics Education, 172, 1-16.
Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Wilson, V. A. (2003). Statistics anxiety: Nature, etiology, antecedents, effects, and treatments: A comprehensive review of the literature. Teaching in Higher Education, 8(2), 195-209. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/1356251032000052447
Pan, W., & Tang, M. (2005). Students' perceptions on factors of statistics anxiety and instructional strategies. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 32(3), 205-214.
Pryczak, F. (2014). Making sense of statistics: A conceptual overview. New York: Routledge.
Rabin, L., & Nutter-Upham, K. (2010). Introduction of a journal excerpt activity improves undergraduate students’ performance in statistics. College Teaching, 584, 156-160. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/87567555.2010.484034
Ramirez, C., Schau, C., & Emmioglu, E. (2012). The importance of attitudes in statistics education. Statistics Education Research Journal, 112, 57-71.
Secret, M., Ford, J., & Rompf. E. (2003). Undergraduate research courses: A closer look reveals complex social work student attitudes. Journal of Social Work Education, 393, 411-422. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2003.10779146
Sizemore, O., & Lewandowski, G. (2009). Learning might not equal liking: Research methods course changes knowledge but not attitudes. Teaching of Psychology, 362, 90-95. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/00986280902739727
Smith, L., Shon, H., & Santiago, R. (2011). Audience response systems: Using ‘clickers’ to enhance BSW education. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 292, 120-132. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/15228835.2011.587737
Stickels, J. W., & Dobbs, R. R. (2007). Helping alleviate statistical anxiety with computer aided statistical classes. Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 7(1), 1-15.
Thomas, L. (2008). Analogical instruction in statistics: Implications for social work educators. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 28(1/2), 247-271. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/08841230802179357
Wells, M. (2006). Making statistics ‘real’ for social work students. Journal of Social Work Education, 422, 397-404. doi: https://doi.org/10.5175/JSWE.2006.200400466
Wilson, S. (2013). The flipped class: A method to address the challenges of an undergraduate statistics course. Teaching of Psychology, 403, 193-199. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628313487461
Published
2017-12-17
Section
Articles