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


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


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