Experiential approach to teaching statistics and research methods
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Statistics and research methods are among the more demanding topics for students of education to master at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. It is our conviction that teaching these topics should be combined with real practical experiences. We discuss an experiential teaching/ learning approach that guides 45 undergraduate students through two statistical and research methods projects. All 45 students are from the Faculty of Education of the University of Zimbabwe. We give the students minimal lectures and then let them carry on their own. We presuppose no mathematical training on the part of the students but explain simple school algebra concepts such as notation for summation, inequalities and equations of straight lines which might be unfamiliar to some. After that, the students are given a hands-on experience of statistics and research methods including take- home assignments. The students begin by conceptualising the application of statistics and research methods through lectures. They then move into the field to conduct their own research in small groups and later come to design their own examination on the topics. Thus they learn by doing. Students found this approach to be very worthwhile and useful, albeit a lot of work. Adaptation of experiential teaching/learning to other difficult areas is also discussed and recommended for future statistics and research methods classes.