The effect of motivation and attitude towards statistics on conceptual understanding of statistics
Holmes, Paul James
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This study explored relationships between a student’s motivation for attending college, his or her attitude towards statistics, and the conceptual understanding he or she derived from an introductory statistics course. The purpose of this study was to determine the appropriate dimensionality of the Academic Motivation Scale (AMS) and to use that scale, as well as the Survey of Attitudes towards Statistics (SATS-28) to predict conceptual understanding of statistics, measured by the Comprehensive Assessment of Outcomes for a first course in Statistics (CAOS). This was done through the use of SEM and stepwise multiple regression. Finally, the differences in conceptual understanding between students at opposite extremes on the various dimensions of motivation were compared. The study sample consisted of 1350 students taking an introductory statistics course at the University of Georgia in Fall 2012. Major findings confirm the four dimension structure, consisting of Intrinsic Motivation, Amotivation, External Regulation, and Identified Regulation, discussed in Smith et al. (2012). From these four motivational factors, and the four attitudinal factors of Affect, Cognitive Competence, Value, and Difficulty, the study determined that the most significant factors in predicting conceptual understanding were (1) the student’s identified regulation (representing the amount that the student recognizes the behavior as important and performs it out of choice); (2) amotivation (the lack of motivation to attend college, typically due to a feeling of not being able to succeed); (3) the extent to which the student’s reasons for going to college are externally regulated (such as career goals); (4) the amount of cognitive competence the student has in their ability of do well in statistics, and; (5) the value and perceived relevance that the student places on statistics in his/her own life.