Give Swirl a Whirl: A Mixed-method Analysis on Swirl Approach to Teach Applied Statistics in a Biology Student Cohort


To equip biology students with data literacy skills, this study investigates the utility of retooling the electronic programming tutorial system, Swirl for teaching applied statistics in a cohort of biology students in a 2-phased study: Phase 1 involved administration of tutorial-based course, pretest-posttest assessment and preliminary survey, while Phase 2 involved post-hoc survey and learning style analysis. The base teaching material, in both Swirl and paper-based forms received positive content evaluation amongst students and improved students’ learning outcomes with significant learning gains and large effect sizes. While there is no evidence of greater learning gains in Swirl against the paper version, it does offer better palatability through its interactive and integrated programmatic components. We see Swirl’s key value in early immersion of students in a formal programmatic environment while learning applied statistical theory simultaneously, and believe that this is essential for efficiently bridging practice-theory gaps for aspiring bio-data scientists.

Author Information
Felicia Ngan, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Chun Chau Sze, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Wilson Wen Bin Goh, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2019
Stream: Curriculum Design & Development

This paper is part of the ACE2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon