Next I distributed balloons so that every student had one. I asked them all to blow three breaths into their balloon, knot it, then measure it's circumference in cms. Each group then listed their group circumferences, and we played with those numbers, learning concepts relating to statistical tests appropriate to this different level of measurement, normal distribution curves etc.
We went on to look at p-values, Odds Ratios, Confidence Intervals etc and worked through some examples from some interesting midwifery research articles about third stage care (for birthing the placenta) and an RCT about waterbirth, where we calculated Numbers Needed to Treat, using the actual data from the studies etc.
I believe the session worked because it was relevant to their interests. I got to expand their thinking about waterbirth and physiological management of the placental birth, which not only enabled them to gain mastery of the statistics but in a 'by stealth' way also educated them further about these important midwifery concepts.
Adult learning theory supports this method of instruction. The students were actively involved, by firstly telling me which order they wanted to cover all that day's content, and determining their pace - saying we would move onto the next concept only after checking in that everyone had grasped the last one. This reflects Westberg and Jason's (1993) ideas about Collaborative vs Authoritarian learning and teaching. The class assisted to 'set the agenda' rather than me telling them which way round we would do things, though admittedly this was still in the context of particular content that I was required to cover. Knowles (1980) describes adult learners as practical, relevancy and goal-oriented, internally motivated, bringing their own knowledge and experience, and reminds us that adult learners like to be respected (and fed, I discovered - they were quick to ask if they culd eat their "sample"!). I aimed to meet these needs in my students, and while possibly not getting it right for everyone, several students did speak to me at the end of the day about how refreshing they had found it, and how much less difficult the statistical concepts were than what they had expected.
Knowles, M. (1980). The modern practice of adult education .New York: Adult Education Company.
Westbury, J. and Jason, H. (1993). Collaborative clinical education: the foundation of effective health
care. New York: Springer Publishing Company.