An Experimental Study Evaluating Error Management Training for Learning to Operate a Statistical Package in an Introductory Statistics Course: Is Less Guidance More?

James Baglin, Cliff Da Costa


Developing the ability to operate a statistical package is a valuable student learning outcome in introductory statistics courses. Despite this, very little is known about the development of this specialised skill. This study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of an Error-management training (EMT) strategy in learning to operate the statistical package SPSS. EMT uses minimal guidance to actively engage students in exploring the task domain and utilises errors made during training as valuable learning opportunities. EMT was compared to a conventional Guided training (GT) strategy which used error-avoidant, step-by-step instructions. A sample of 100 psychology students enrolled in a first year introductory statistics course were randomly allocated to either EMT or GT. Participants completed five fortnightly SPSS training sessions. Prior to the last training session, participants completed a post-training self-assessment task that assessed training transfer. The same self-assessment task was also completed as a follow-up in semester two. After controlling for covariates, the results of this study found no statistically significant difference between the training conditions on measures of training transfer. While a number of limitations hindered a conclusive result, issues and challenges discussed in this study provide valuable lessons for future research in this area.

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