Statistics Anxiety and Business Statistics: The International Student
Bell, James A., Education
Statistics anxiety has been defined as "feelings of anxiety encountered when taking a statistics course or doing statistical analyses; that is gathering, processing and interpreting data" (Cruise et. al., 1985). Statistics anxiety is negatively related to statistics achievement (Baloglu & Zelhart, 2003). Previous studies concerning international students have dealt with statistics anxiety in Production and Operations Management courses (Bell, 1998, 2001, 2003). The mathematical preparation of international students is superior to the preparation of the domestic students (Madison & Hart, 1990). Mathematics background plays an integral role in statistics anxiety. Students with an enhanced calculus preparation (a five semester hour calculus course or high school calculus) significantly lowered their anxiety levels during a business statistics course (Bell, 2003). Will the enhanced mathematical preparation cause the international student to exhibit less statistics anxiety? Another factor to consider is the format of the course. Students who took statistics in an accelerated time frame encountered higher levels of statistics anxiety (Bell, 2001,2005). Students who took a beginning course entirely via the computer encountered lower levels of statistics anxiety than those students who opted for a traditional course (Bell & Weller). Both the lack of positive feedback and the lack of encouragement by student instructors were found to lead to a negative student perception about the course and thus increased levels of statistics anxiety (Onwuegbuzie, 1997). Other studies have found that females tend to flourish in same-sex classrooms (Campbell & Evans, 1997) and women experienced higher levels of statistics anxiety than men (Onwuegbuzie, 1993). Statistics levels have been significantly lowered by removing time constraints when testing (Onwuegbuzie, 1995). However, relatively few studies exist that consider statistics anxiety concerning international students in the beginning statistics course.
In the spirit of Corey's "Action Research" of the 1950s, the Statistics Anxiety Rating Scale (STARS) was administered at the beginning of a night course (one night/week, three hours/night, fifteen weeks) in business statistics. The night class was chosen for two reasons: students taking statistics in a night class suffered higher levels of statistics anxiety than those who opted for the traditional MWF or TR format and the night course seemed more popular with international students. What is "Action Research"? Corey (1954) defined "Action Research" as "deliberate, solution-oriented investigation which is designed, conducted, and implemented by teachers themselves to improve teaching in the classroom." The subjects in this experiment were sixty-six students in a beginning statistics class, twelve international students and fifty-four domestic students. Due to the small number of international students and the ordinal level of measurement of the Likert scale in STARS, the nonparametric Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon T test was employed. The parametric test for independent samples requires that both populations are normal and have equal variances whereas the Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon T test only requires at least ordinal data. Since both sample sizes are at least ten, the normal approximation to T can be used (Anderson, et. al. 1996).
The Statistics Anxiety Rating Scale (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, lower scores indicate lower levels of statistics anxiety. 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 utilize or what to do with the null hypothesis (Cruise, 1985).
Factor 3--Test and Class Anxiety--This 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 the course involves mathematical calculations and the student feels inadequate when comprehending statistics (Cruise, 1985).
Factor 5--Fear of Asking for Help--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).
The results of the Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon T test are shown below (Anderson, et. al., 1996).
Factor 1 Worth of Statistics No significant difference was noted concerning this factor (Z = 1.22, p = .11).
Factor 2 Interpretation Anxiety The international students scored significantly higher, indicating more statistics anxiety, than their domestic counterparts (Z = 3.99, p < .0001).
Factor 3 Test and Class Anxiety There was no significant difference between the international group and the domestic group regarding this factor (Z = 1.11, p = .13).
Factor 4 Computation Self-Concept The international students exhibited significantly higher statistics anxiety than the domestic students (Z = 1.96, p = .025).
Factor 5 Fear of Asking for Help The international group scored significantly higher than the domestic group (Z = 2.00, p = .0228).
Factor 6 Fear of the Statistics Teacher No significant difference was noted for this factor.
There were three factors where the two groups differed significantly, Factor 2--Interpretation Anxiety, Factor 4--Computation Self-Concept and Factor 5--Fear of Asking for Help. The most explainable difference was in Factor 5--Fear of Asking for Help. The fact that the students were taking the course in their, at best, second language probably best explains the difference. Communication is also important because part of the course involves group work. Furthermore, collaborative testing also involves group work. Cultural differences also show up in the classroom. Central American students differ from those from Japan and China in their approach to asking questions. The differences in Factor 4--Computation Self-Concept probably stems from the dependence on the hand-held calculator, the TI-83+ or TI-84+. Transfer students may not have experienced the extensive use of hand-held calculators in their prerequisite courses. Language is probably the best explanation for the differences in Factor 2--Interpretation Anxiety. Students must make inferences from numerical data. Again, the students are taking the course in their second language.
The instructor in business statistics must be cognizant of the international students in his or her class, and have some idea of their mathematical preparation. The mathematics preparation of international students is country specific. Not all international students are well-prepared in mathematics. Special care should be taken when using hand-held calculators. Be especially sure that the international students are familiar with their calculators. Group work can be useful as an aid to communication. Breaking a class into sub-groups of four to six can be a useful tool to lessen statistics anxiety.
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JAMES A. BELL
University of Central Arkansas
Conway, AR 72035…
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Publication information: Article title: Statistics Anxiety and Business Statistics: The International Student. Contributors: Bell, James A. - Author. Journal title: Education. Volume: 129. Issue: 2 Publication date: Winter 2008. Page number: 282+. © 1999 Project Innovation. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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