We examined student characteristics, statistics anxiety and attitudes toward science among 104 (76 females, 23 males, 5 gender not disclosed) undergraduates. Younger students were more negative regarding the implications of science and the enjoyment they perceived in learning science. No significant gender differences were found and Latinos/Hispanics, Caucasian, and other ethnic groups did not differ on statistics anxiety and attitudes toward science. However, anxiety for interpretation of statistics and taking a test and class in statistics were moderately high for these groups. These findings support the notion of the ubiquity of statistics anxiety across groups, regardless of previous experience. We also found that statistics anxiety was inversely related to attitudes toward science, suggesting that future research examine how to improve attitudes toward science to lessen statistics anxiety among students. Limitations of the study are also discussed.
Keywords: statistics anxiety, science attitudes, age, gender, ethnicity
Different student characteristics have been shown to be related to academic success, such as low levels of procrastination (Rothblum, Solomon, & Murakami, 1986), high levels of work drive (Ridgell & Lounsbury, 2004), good emotional stability (Ridgell & Lounsbury), and low amounts of negative life stress (Petrie & Russell, 1995). However, of particular concern for many professors of statistics is anxiety associated with taking a course in statistics. Studies that have examined statistics anxiety have shown that a student's competence and success in a statistics course is influenced by their attitudes toward the course (Kottke, 2000). Baloglu (2004) pointed out that statistics anxiety is a relatively new construct and is related to but different from math anxiety. Although both types of anxiety have to do with the stress that students feel when dealing with mathematical reasoning, Baloglu states that statistics anxiety is distinct in that students also have apprehension involving the verbal reasoning and manipulation of the mathematical symbols that are required in understanding statistics. If this is true of statistics anxiety, do attitudes about science, which is a field that also involves a degree of verbal reasoning, relate to statistics anxiety? To better understand statistics anxiety, we explored student characteristics and attitudes toward related fields in the present study.
Student Characteristics and Statistics Anxiety
A variety of student characteristics, such as age and gender of the student, have been examined in relation to statistics anxiety. For example, nontraditional students (age 25 or older) were found to have greater statistics anxiety related to taking tests and being in the class (Bell, 2003). Additionally, traditional students had higher final statistics course grades compared to their non-traditional counterparts. Bell suggests that the lower grades of the non-traditional students can be partially explained by statistics anxiety, but they could also be due to non-traditional students' longer absence from math courses prior to enrolling in their current statistics course. Although Bell's comparisons between traditional and non-traditional students provide important findings for instructors who teach a variety of students, the study did not examine the relationships between statistics anxiety and other student characteristics and background, such as prior math experience (e.g., level of last math course and the number of years since the student's last math course). To explore these relationships, in the present study we compared non-traditional and traditional college students' statistics anxiety and the influence of previous math experience.
Mji (2009) examined whether the student characteristics of gender and college major were related to statistics anxiety. Using the Statistical Anxiety Ratings Scale (STARS; Cruise & Wilkins, 1980), Mji found that statistics anxiety was high among all 226 South African technical college students sampled. However, Mji found no gender or college major differences. A limitation of Mji's study was that it did not include a diverse ethnic sample nor was information collected on past mathematical experience or time between taking their last math course and their current statistics course. Furthermore, Rodarte-Luna and Shelley (2008) studied 323 undergraduates and found some small and weak gender differences in statistics anxiety, However, these differences were more defined when they examined the cognitive strategies that students used to learn, such as procrastination and seeking help from peers. Males were more likely to use procrastination as a strategy, and were also were more like to have statistics anxiety related to test and class anxiety, interpretation anxiety, and asking for statistics help. Females used many other strategies to learn and these other strategies were related to lower statistics anxiety. But for females who used procrastination, statistics anxiety was also higher overall. Some limitations to Rodarte-Luna and Shelley's (2008) study were that they administered their measures online and only used the criteria of whether the student was or ever had taken a statistics course. It is possible that students inaccurately recalled or reported their experiences of statistics anxiety because it may have been a while since they had taken the class. The contradictory findings from the studies discussed above demonstrate that the relationship between gender and statistics anxiety needs to be explored further.
In terms of studies that show ethnic differences in statistics anxiety, the research in this area is limited. However, one study that did examine ethnic related …