An Experimental Study Comparing Two Different Training Strategies on how to use Statistical Packages in an Introductory Statistics Course

James Baglin, Cliff Da Costa, Matthew Ovens, Vicky Bablas


Statistics education reform advocated the use of statistical software packages, such as SPSS, Minitab, and R, in introductory statistics courses. However, little research has focused on finding effective methods of training students how to use these packages. This experimental study evaluated the effectiveness of two different training strategies. A sample of 100 first year psychology students were randomly allocated to either a Guided training (GT) strategy or an error management training (EMT) strategy. GT consisted of step-by-step instructions that aimed to explicitly direct participants through training to use the statistical package SPSS. EMT avoided step-by-step instructions, instead focusing on minimal instruction which aimed to engage participants in actively exploring the statistical package. In EMT, errors were viewed as beneficial to training as they help develop a deeper understanding of SPSS. Participants completed five statistical package training sessions across the semester. Following four of these training sessions, participants completed self-assessment tasks that measured training transfer performance. After controlling for statistical knowledge and self-assessment compliance, the results of the study indicated no statistically significant differences between the two training strategies. However, this conclusion must be interpreted with caution due to a number of study imitations which are discussed in this article.

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