Readiness Assessment Tests (RATs)


William Harkness and Laura Simon, Penn State University


Have you found yourself wishing that students actually completed your reading assignments before coming to class (or at all)? Do you find yourself wishing you had more class time to work with students on interesting problems rather than using valuable class time teaching basic concepts? If your answer to either of these questions was "yes," then you might want to consider implementing Readiness Assessment Tests (RATs) in your classes.

Attendees of this breakout session will be introduced to the Readiness Assessment Test method that has been used successfully by introductory statistics courses at Penn State University over the past five years. Attendees will learn about RATs, and come to appreciate their value, by actually working through the process in the same way students in their classes would. The method involves four key-steps: 1) students first take an individual Readiness Assessment Test 2) then students take the same Readiness Assessment Test as a group, 3) students are given an opportunity to appeal their group results, and finally 4) students complete group activities that allow them to immediately apply their newfound knowledge. Attendees will not only be introduced to the method used in several disciplines across Penn State, but will also be given the opportunity to discuss their concerns about, and to formulate viable solutions for, implementing RATs in their own classes.


William Harkness has been teaching statistics at Penn State for 46 years. He has dedicated much of the last fifteen years working to improve statistical education at Penn State and beyond. He served as a Co-Principal Investigator on a $200,000 grant from the Pew Foundation's Learning and Technology Program, sponsored by the Center for Academic Transformation, to redesign the intro statistics course and was co-PI on the NSF CCLI Grant Transforming Biological and Engineering Statistics at Penn State. He has collaborated extensively with researchers in instructional design on pedagogical issues in statistical education, and Curriculum and Instruction (on research on performance of students in science, technology and society courses). In August 2004 he gave both the Keynote and Closing Addresses at the annual conference Beyond the Formulas, devoted to teaching statistics.

Laura J. Simon, Lecturer and Teaching Fellow, has been teaching statistics at Penn State University since 1996. Since that time, Dr. Simon has been actively involved in improving statistical education at all levels using technology. Supported by the Pew Foundation's Learning and Technology Program, she played a major role in redesigning a large, introductory statistics course at Penn State using Readiness Assessment Tests and data-based learning activities. She co-authored nine units of the web-based introductory statistics text, Visualizing Statistics (Cybergnostics, Inc.), and has recently developed and delivered an on-line applied regression course for graduate students on Penn State's World Campus. She was recently nominated for the 2004 Eberly College of Science's C.I. Noll Award for Teaching Excellence.


Handout (PDF)