The Better Book Approach for Education Research and Development

James W. Stigler, Ji Y. Son, Karen B. Givvin, Adam Blake, Laura Fries, Stacy T. Shaw, Mary C. Tucker (2019)

This paper describes a new approach for education research and development - the better book approach - and reports on our initial development and application of the approach in the context of introductory college-level statistics.

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Teaching Statistics and Data Analysis with R

Mary C. Tucker, Stacy T. Shaw, Ji Y. Son, James W. Stigler (2022)

In this exploratory study, we characterize the attitudes and experiences of 672 undergraduate students as they used our online textbook as part of a 10-week introductory course in statistics. Students expressed negative attitudes and concerns related to R at the beginning of the course, but most developed more positive attitudes after engaging with course materials, regardless of demographic characteristics or prior programming experience. Analysis of a subgroup of students revealed that change in attitudes toward Rmay be linked to students’ patterns of engagement over time and students’ perceptions of the learning environment.

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Modeling First: Applying Learning Science to the Teaching of Introductory Statistics

Ji Y. Son, Adam Blake, Laura Fries, James W. Stigler (2020)

In this article we describe our attempt to apply theories and findings from learning science to the design of a statistics course that aims to help students build a coherent and interconnected representation of the domain. The resulting practicing connections approach provides students with repeated opportunities to practice connections between core concepts (especially the concepts of statistical model, distribution, and randomness), key representations (R programming language and computational techniques such as simulation and bootstrapping), and real-world situations statisticians face as they explore variation, model variation, and evaluate and compare statistical models. We provide a guided tour through our curriculum implemented in an interactive online textbook ( and then provide some evidence that students who complete the course are able to transfer what they have learned to the learning of new statistical techniques.

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Instructed Hand Movements Affect Students’ Learning of an Abstract Concept from Video

Icy (Yunyi) Zhang, Karen B. Givvin, Jeffrey M. Sipple, Ji Y. Son, James W. Stigler (2021)

The two studies reported here investigate the impact of instructed hand movements on students’ subsequent understanding of a concept. Students were asked to watch an instructional video—focused on the concept of statistical model—three times. These two studies found that instructed hand movement—even when presented as an unrelated, secondary task—can affect students’ learning of a complex concept.

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This article was featured in Scientific American.

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Practicing Connections: A Framework to Guide Instructional Design for Developing Understanding in Complex Domains

Laura Fries, Ji Y. Son, Karen B. Givvin, James W. Stigler (2020)

Research suggests that expert understanding is characterized by coherent mental representations featuring a high level of connectedness. This paper advances the idea that educators can facilitate this level of understanding in students through the practicing connections framework: a practical framework to guide instructional design for developing deep understanding and transferable knowledge in complex academic domains.

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Lower Socioeconomic Status is Related to Poorer Emotional Well-Being Prior to Academic Exams

Danny Rahal, Stacy T. Shaw, James W. Stigler (2023)

People of lower social status tend to have greater emotional responses to stress. This study assessed whether lower social status was related to greater emotional responses in anticipation of a naturalistic stressor: academic exams among college students. As hypothesized, multilevel models (ratings nested within participants) predicting emotion indicated that students with lower mother’s education had less positive emotion, more depressive emotion, and more anxious emotion the day prior to academic exams than students with higher mother’s education (proportional reductions in variance [PRV] = .013–.020). Specifically, lower mother’s education was associated with poorer well-being before but not after the exam. Exploratory models revealed that differences in emotion by mother’s education were strongest for students with lower exam scores (PRV = .030–.040).

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Cindy Xiong, Elsie Lee-Robbins, Icy Zhang, Aimen Gaba, Steven Franconeri (2022)

We tested whether confirmation bias exists when people reason with visualized data and whether certain visualization designs can elicit less biased reasoning strategies. We asked crowdworkers to solve reasoning problems that had the potential to evoke both poor reasoning strategies and confirmation bias. Presenting the data in a table format helped participants reason with the correct ratio strategy while showing the data as a bar table or a bar chart led participants towards incorrect heuristics. Confirmation bias was not significantly present when beliefs were primed, but it was present when beliefs were pre-existing. Additionally, the table presentation format was more likely to afford the ratio reasoning strategy, and the use of ratio strategy was more likely to lead to the correct answer.

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Concerns and Challenges in Introductory Statistics and Correlates with Motivation and Interest

Claudia C. Sutter, Karen B. Givvin, Chris S. Hulleman (2023)

We explore how students’ course concerns at the outset of their introductory statistics course predict their later perceived course challenges and future interest in statistics via a function of achievement motivation. Data were collected from undergraduate students during the COVID-19 pandemic, using both open-ended (concerns and challenges) and closed-ended (achievement motivation and future interest) questions. Our findings (a) add to the increasing body of research reporting differences in how female and male students as well as students from racially marginalized backgrounds and racial majority students experience STEM courses and help explain different levels of interest in pursuing STEM careers, and (b) suggest that increasing future interest in statistics might require different interventions.

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Utility Value Trajectories and their Relationship with Behavioral Engagement and Performance in Introductory Statistics

Claudia C. Sutter, Chris S. Hulleman, Karen B. Givvin, Mary C. Tucker (2021)

This study examined utility value trajectories overall and by gender, race, and underrepresented racial minority (URM) status within an introductory statistics course that used the CourseKata online textbook and tested the relationships between utility value, behavioral engagement, and performance.

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Removing Opportunities to Calculate Improves Students' Performance on Subsequent Word Problems

Karen B. Givvin, Veronika Moroz, William Loftus, James W. Stigler (2019)

This paper reports our investigation on whether removing opportunities to calculate could improve students’ subsequent ability to solve similar word problems

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Exploring the Practicing-connections Hypothesis: Using Gesture to Support Coordination of Ideas in Understanding a Complex Statistical Concept

Ji Y. Son, Priscilla Ramos, Melissa DeWolf, William Loftus, James W. Stigler (2018)

This paper presented a framework and approach for studying how students come to understand complex concepts in rich domains. Specifically, it explores the role that a teacher’s gesture might play in supporting students’ coordination of two concepts central to understanding in the domain of statistics: mean and standard deviation.

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Expertise and Expert Performance in Teaching

James W. Stigler, Kevin F. Miller (2018)

This chapter tries to take a broader approach to understanding the nature and development of expertise and expert performance in teaching. The paper also tries to integrate a number of ideas and findings from literatures as diverse as cross-cultural compar- isons of teaching, cognitive psychology, and systems improvement, among others.

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James W. Stigler, James Hiebert, Karen B. Givvin (2018)

The paper discusses the logic of the more traditional approach on which many current policies for improving teaching in the United States are based and then presents an alternative research approach, in which a different theory of improvement is assumed.

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Online Learning as a Wind Tunnel for Improving Teaching

James W. Stigler, Karen B. Givvin (2017)

The chapter proposes an approach that combines the affordances of online learning with the methodologies of systems improvement. It discusses how online learning might be a wind tunnel for the study and improvement of teaching.

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What Community College Developmental Mathematics Students Understand about Mathematics, Part2: The Interviews

Karen B. Givvin, James W. Stigler, Belinda J. Thompson (2011)

Following the prior paper, this article presents findings from one-on-one interviews with a sample of community college developmental math students. These interviews were designed to further probe students’ mathematical thinking, both correct and incorrect.

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What Community College Developmental Mathematics Students Understand about Mathematics

James W. Stigler, Karen B. Givvin, Belinda J. Thompson (2010)

This paper investigates what community college students actually understand about the mathematics that underlie the topics they’ve been taught and seeks evidence that students used reasoning in answering mathematical questions.

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Watching a Hands-On Activity Improves Students’ Understanding of Randomness

Icy (Yunyi) Zhang, Mary C. Tucker, James W. Stigler (2022)

Given the growing interest in using statistical programming languages like R as pedagogical tools, the findings of this study provide important and encouraging insights into the use of hands-on demonstrations to complement computer simulation in remote teaching. It validates the importance of giving students some hands-on exposure to the simulation processes prior to the computational simulation we want them to understand and makes it clear that at least some of the benefits of embodied activities can be retained even if students are not performing the hands-on activities themselves.

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Student Concerns and Perceived Challenges in Introductory Statistics

Claudia C. Sutter, Karen B. Givvin, Mary C. Tucker, Kathryn A. Givvin, Ana Leandro-Ramos, Paige L. Solomon (2022)

This study explored undergraduates’ incoming course concerns and later perceived challenges in an introductory statistics course using the CourseKata materials. Concerns changed with the onset of COVID-19 and the frequency of concerns differed by gender and URM status. Because students’ perceptions have an impact on their experiences and expectations, understanding and addressing concerns and challenges can help guide the development of interventions.

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