CHAPTER 1

How Does Students’ Prior Knowledge Affect Their Learning?

But They Said They Knew This!

I recently taught Research Methods in Decision Sciences for the first time. On the first day of class, I asked my students what kinds of statistical tests they had learned in the introductory statistics course that is a prerequisite for my course. They generated a fairly standard list that included T-tests, chi-square, and ANOVA. Given what they told me, I was pretty confident that my first assignment was pitched at the appropriate level; it simply required that students take a data set that I provided, select and apply the appropriate statistical test from those they had already learned, analyze the data, and interpret the results. It seemed pretty basic, but I was shocked at what they handed in. Some students chose a completely inappropriate test while others chose the right test but did not have the foggiest idea how to apply it. Still others could not interpret the results. What I can’t figure out is why they told me they knew this stuff when it’s clear from their work that most of them don’t have a clue.

Professor Soo Yon Won

Why Is This So Hard for Them to Understand?

Every year in my introductory psychology class I teach my students about classic learning theory, particularly the concepts of positive and negative reinforcement. I know that these can be tough concepts for students to grasp, so I spell out very clearly that reinforcement always refers to increasing a behavior ...