#octel Week3 – What is Learning?

This week’s “if you only do one thing” task is to reflect upon a recent experience of learning something.  My choice is a recent crash course in statistics when I needed to analyse some data to see whether there was any statistical significance and I realised I couldn’t put it off any longer.  I won’t say too much about the specific data I’ve been working with as I hope to have something publishable in due course.

I was aware that a colleague taught basic stats to his Year 0 students, so I had a (slightly cheeky) look at some of the screencasts he had produced for them, which gave a good overview of which test to use in which circumstances and I had a go at some of the examples he demonstrated.  Then I plugged my own data into the spreadsheet and got some results which seemed reasonable.  Realising that his material was designed to teach stats partly as a means to teach advanced Excel, I was able to cut a few corners when I looked at other sets of data as I’m quite experienced with Excel.

I ran into a problem where the published lookup tables for the Mann-Whitney method weren’t sufficient for the number of items of data I was working with, so I asked my colleague for advice.  He suggested looking into using SPSS although he wasn’t familiar with it himself.  Searching for suitable tutorials online I was able to understand enough of the basic operation to get results out of SPSS for a small data set which matched those I got manually, so I was then able to use it with confidence to analyse the larger data sets which I was interested in.

In many respects this strategy is similar to the inverted classroom that he is using with his students – engage with the online resources and then have the opportunity to discuss with the tutor.

This fits quite neatly with the Learning Types typology given in the ocTEL material for this week

  • The screencasts dealt with the “know that” aspect, giving the background to why we use statistical analysis and in which situations you would choose a T Test and where a Mann-Whitney is appropriate. 
  • The screencasts also demonstrated the procedures through screen recordings, covering the “know-how”. 
  • “Knowing in action” would be my having to decide which test to apply to the particular data set and learning through mistakes when it went wrong. 
  • In terms of “other” factors I think that motivation played a part in that I was learning in order to solve a specific, real, problem rather than because somebody had told me that I needed to learn this material, so I had the motivation to seek out information and assistance where appropriate.

Other models could also be applied; Bloom’s Taxonomy seems to fit quite well too, with the screencasts being used to gain knowledge.  Trying my colleagues examples allowed me to gain a comprehension of the concepts and applying his examples to my own data was an example of application.

There were elements of analysis in testing whether the results I got from SPSS matched those I got manually to confirm whether what I had learned how to do was correct.

There was some synthesis in combining my colleague’s prescribed method of carrying out the statistical analysis with my own knowledge of how to use Excel to find short cuts for the procedure.

It could be argued (albeit tenuously) that there were elements of Evaluation in selecting appropriate tutorials for SPSS that covered the information I required in a context that I was able to translate to my own particular data sets.


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