Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Influence of Research Methods and Statistics Courses on Everyday Reasoning, Critical Abilities, and Belief in Unsubstantiated Phenomena

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science

Influence of Research Methods and Statistics Courses on Everyday Reasoning, Critical Abilities, and Belief in Unsubstantiated Phenomena

Article excerpt

Abstract

Do undergraduate courses in psychology Research Methods (RM) and Statistics (STA T) improve general reasoning skills and scientific "critical abilities"? Psychology studen ts concurrently enrolled in introductory RM and STAT were randomly assigned to one of three cond itions: a baseline group was tested at the beginning of the semester; another group was te sted after completion of RM and STAT; and a third group completed RM and STAT and also rece ived 3 tutorial sessions that specifically emphasized transfer of the course material t o reasoning in a more general context. A group of students in a humanities programme provided a general comparison group. All participants were assessed on tests of general reasoning and of critical abilities. Respondents also completed a questionnaire that assessed their willi ngness to endorse scientifically unsubstantiated phenomena. The RM and STAT courses by themselves did not enhance students' general reasoning or critical ability. The group receiving tu torial sessions in addition to the RM and STAT did, however, perform significantly better than the baseline group. Willingness to endorse belief in unsubstantiated phenomena was not affected by the courses.

Resume

Les cours de premier cycle en psychologie, soit Methodes de recherche (MR) et St atistiques (STAT), ont - ils pour effet d'ameliorer la capacite de raisonnement general et le sens critique dans le domaine des sciences? Des etudiants inscrits a des cours preparatoires MR et STAT ont ete affectes au hasard a l'un des trois groupes suivants: un groupe de base soumis a un test au debut du semestre, un groupe sou mis a un test a la fin des cours MR et STAT et un troisieme groupe ayant termine les c ours MR et STAT et ayant participe a trois seances guidees, axees sur l'application du contenu des cours a un contexte plus general faisant appel au raisonnement. Un groupe d'etudiants inscrits a un programme de lettres et de sciences humaines co nstituait un groupe de reference generale. Tous les participants ont ete soumis a des tests de raisonnement general et de sens critique. Ils ont aussi rempli un ques tionnaire visant a evaluer dans quelle mesure ils etaient pre@ts a croire en des phenomenes sans fondement scientifique. Les cours MR et STAT n'ont pas eu pour effet d'ameliorer la capacite de raisonnement general ni le sens critique des etudiant s. Le groupe ayant assiste a des seances guidees apres avoir suivi les cours MR et STAT a toutefois obtenu de bien meilleurs resultats que le groupe de base. Les cours n'ont pas influe sur la disposition a croire en des phenomenes sans fondement.

Although one of the goals of undergraduate psychology research methods and stati stics courses is to improve students' abilities to assess the reliability and validity of the information they receive, there has been little formal effort to directly assess the effectivenes s of such courses. Do such courses provide the students with improved critical abilities and genera l reasoning skills that they can apply to more everyday - life situations? Do the courses encourag e students to be more skeptical about general information they receive? Are they more likely to apply what has been called a control - group way of thinking (Gray & Mill, 1990) to more genera l issues outside the context of the lab and classroom?

The results of some recent research do indicate that certain types of gradu ate training (Lehman, Lempert, & Nisbett, 1988) and that some undergraduate programmes (Lehma n & Nisbett, 1990) do improve general reasoning. Such research supports the notion that formal training in statistical and methodological reasoning does generalize beyond the particular disciplinary boundaries. For example, Lehman and Nisbett (1990) report that und ergraduate training in the social sciences, particularly psychology, does lead students to apply statistical and methodological reasoning skills to a range of everyday situations. …

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