2015 Mary Hennessey Blum Lecture

Dr. Victor Benassi

Faculty Director, Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching and Learning, Professor, Psychology Department, University of New Hampshire. 


Presentation Title: Teaching for Transfer of Learning in Undergraduate Statistics Courses: Science of Learning Can Help


Abstract of Presentation:

Statistics courses typically follow a similar sequence: the teacher provides instruction on a particular statistical test, including assigned reading, classroom-based instruction, and homework or other “practice” activities. Once a statistical test is “covered,” the teacher goes on to the next statistical test. And so on. At various points in the course there are exams on the statistical tests covered to date. At the end of the course, there may or may not be a comprehensive final exam. When students complete a basic course in statistics, one of the standard expected outcomes is that they be able to determine which statistical test is appropriate for particular research designs. Teachers who administer comprehensive final exams often ask “What went wrong! They don’t know when to use a t test, a correlational analysis, a z-test. I’m discouraged.” The difficulty might be that the method of instruction is not designed to address the expected outcome. In this presentation, I will describe and discuss how instructional methods, informed by science of learning, can address this problem and others that routinely occur in the introductory statistics course. These methods involve use of interleaving, distributed practice, and transfer appropriate training. Results from a series of course-based studies document that powerful effect these methods have on students’ performance a comprehensive final test that measures their ability to choose the appropriate statistical test. I will conclude by highlighting other areas in which science of learning can be applied to promote better student learning, retention, and transfer.


Dr. Benassi's Bio:

Victor Benassi has been a professor, department chair, and academic administrator at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). He is Faculty Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. He is an APA fellow and served as APA’s 2013 Division 2 President (Society for the Teaching of Psychology, STP). He was principal investigator of a Davis Educational Foundation (DEF) grant—The Cognition Toolbox: Implementing Cognitive Principles and Assessing Student Learning in College Courses (2009‐2012). He is currently principal investigator of a DEF grant: Teaching and Learning with Multimedia (2012‐2015). With William Buskist, is co‐editor of Effective College and University Teaching: Strategies and Tactics for the New Professoriate (2012, Sage Publications). With Catherine Overson and Chris Hakala, he is co-editor of Applying the Science of Learning in Education: Infusing Psychological Science into the Curriculum (STP, 2014). In 2003, he received the American Psychological Foundation’s Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology award. His current research focuses on the application of science of learning principles to teaching and learning in college and university courses.