Jolynn Pek, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology

Jolynn Pek, Ph.D., assistant professor with the Department of Psychology, faced several challenges while teaching honors students enrolled in her Introduction for Data Analysis course (PSYC2220H). She wanted her students to be engaged instead of disinterested, which she credited to math anxiety and the difficulty learning probability as a concept, the requirement of learning script-based statistical software, and an inability to connect the course content to their daily lives.

Pek chose to target “statistical thinking” for an Instructional Redesign project, component 3 of the Michael V. Drake Institute for Teaching and Learning's Teaching Support Program. In past iterations of this course, Pek presented students with data and graphics on everyday examples of statistics that included, among others, polling information on presidential performance, a poll about increasing numbers of “Flat Earthers” among millennials, and gender discrimination by tennis umpires. She invited her students into discussions based on these presentations, but participation was minimal. (She also offered bonus points to those who sought out additional examples.)

As a redesign of this strategy, Pek asked students to articulate the importance of statistical data “by making them actively seek, consider, and evaluate” examples, and integrate personal viewpoints in their reflections. 

Other changes involved stronger alignment of low-stakes multiple-choice questions that students could revisit to study for examples, reduction in lecture material and slide content to focus on key concepts, replacing lectures with active learning and redesigning individual homework assignments as capstone projects.

In addition to embarking on formal course design through a Drake Institute, Pek made use of technologies offered by the Office of Distance Education and eLearning to promote active learning in the course using Carmen and TopHat. She also uses R software.

Pek assessed students' confidence in using statistics. “After Exam 1, 0% reported feeling not confident at all. 25% reported feeling somewhat unconfident or neither confident or unconfident. 75% of students felt somewhat or very confident,” she reported. She also noted the following student comments related to the relevance of statistics in their lives:

  • I’m starting to recognize the presences of statistics in many different kinds of observations, not even relating to actual experiments. 
  • I think I find statistics way more relevant and now I can approach statistical data with a much more prepared mindset. 
  • This class helped me realize the extent of statistics and therefore research impacts people’s daily lives through things like healthcare, social structures, and products. 
  • I am realizing that most news I read uses statistics and how to know when to actually believe those claims. 


Pek found her instructional strategies also led to increased performance in group activities that require using R to analyze data. Details about her isntructional redesign are available in her IR portfolio.