Predictors of student success in undergraduate business statistics course.

Author:Kohli, Amarpreet S.

    Statistics is a very important component of business education: it provides students with skills to critically assess and understand various functions of the world in a meaningful way. It is a vital "toolkit" for business practitioners and researchers that provides them with tools to draw conclusions about causes and effects, test theories of consumer behavior, develop business relationships, and conduct market surveys as well as organizational and feasibility studies (Gandhi, Sahai, & Acevedo, 1991). In industries, it is employed for effective planning and operations management, i.e. quality control, reliability, forecasting, and inventory control. All these areas require skills in data manipulation, analysis, and interpretation. Because of the importance being placed on use of statistics in the business world, all business schools accredited by AACSB (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) are in agreement that statistics be a core requirement in their curriculum (Gougeon, 2004; Hamada, Patell, Staelin, & Wecker, 1988; Harrington & Schibik, 2004). Interestingly, in a survey of AACSB accredited undergraduate business programs, Parker, Pettijohn, and Keillor (1999) reported that majority of universities (72.8%) required undergraduate business students to take two statistics courses. In spite of the significance placed on statistics in business education, students often lack interest and motivation to learn to their best ability when exposed to numbers. Many undergraduate students have difficulties with basic high school algebra and arithmetic (McClure & Sircar, 2008).

    At all levels of educational careers, statistics courses are disliked and seen as compulsory pass/fail impediment (Burton, 2003). These courses are regarded as difficult and least pleasant and students' often complain about their mathematical nature (Swanson, Meinert, & Swanson, 1994). Students delay enrolling in statistics classes for as long as possible, with some delaying enrollment until their last semester in the degree program - not an optimal learning process (Mji & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). Hence, it is critical that we find ways to help students succeed in these quantitative courses. The primary purpose of our research was to assess the predictors of students' success in the business statistics course at a mid-sized, comprehensive state university in Northeast. The paper is organized in the following manner. The next section reviews the literature on factors affecting students' performance in quantitative courses in business curriculum. Then, the research methodology is described, followed by the results. Finally we offer conclusions with discussion of how these results can be used to help students succeed in business statistics courses.


    Numerous studies have revealed the importance of statistics along with other factors when assessing the predictors of students' success in business programs nationally and internationally. Prior research has documented that success in these courses is positively correlated with successful completion of their business program (Alfan & Othman, 2005; Hamada et al., 1988; High, 2000; Krehbiel & McClure, 1993; Truell & Woosley, 2008). Pomykalski, Dion, and Brock (2008) developed a structural equation model that accounted for 79% variability of students' grade point average (GPA) where final grades in the foundation courses, i.e. Macroeconomics, Statistics, Introduction to Business, and Databases, were the key predictors of students' success (senior GPA) in the business program. These results corroborated with a study conducted by Brown, McCormick, and Abraham (2002) where grade in Macroeconomics was found to be a significant predictor assessing senior GPA. Alfan and Othman (2005) observed that business students' overall performance was related to their performance in Mathematics, English, and Accounting courses at University of Malaya.

    Interestingly, a study conducted by Sulaiman and Mohezar (2006) on MBA students revealed that undergraduate grades followed by the undergraduate discipline were the best predictors of academic performance (measured in terms of cumulative GPA), whereas age, ethnicity, gender, and years of work experience were found to be insignificant. The differential performance of female and male students in relation to statistics anxiety has been well documented, but with mixed results, and the research on gender and age as predictors of performance in statistics courses is still unclear (Zimmer & Fuller, 1996). Kamery, Kugele, and Williams (2004) reported that GPA and age were most closely related to students' grade in the business statistics class. Their overall model (students' age, cumulative GPA, and type of faculty) explained 64% of students' grade. GPA in the business statistics course was also observed as the most influential and positive variable in predicting students' graduation (Borde, 1998; Truell & Woosley, 2008).

    Another variable that influences students' performance in statistics courses is the grades received in the prerequisites (Rochelle & Dotterweich, 2007). Islam, Gygi, Gardner, and Gooch (2005) purported that mathematics prerequisites for the business statistics course were found to help students succeed in the business major. Gupta, Harris, Carrier, and Caron (2006) studied the predictors of success in prerequisite statistics courses for all undergraduate students being serviced by the Mathematics Department (including the business majors), and the results indicated that students who were male, older, missed fewer classes, took more 100 level courses preferably in a once a week format, tend to do better in the statistics course. Surprisingly, the students who had taken more remedial Mathematics courses received lower grades in their study.

    Statistics anxiety, another important variable, has been regarded as an omnipresent problem provoking emotional reactions on a continuum from mild discomforts to negative outcomes i.e. apprehensions, fear, nervousness, panic, and worry for students studying statistics courses (Birenbaum & Eylath, 1994; Gal & Ginsberg, 1994). In this context, Gupta et al., (2006) and High (2000) reported that the students who had a more positive attitude towards mathematics received higher grade in the statistics courses. In another study, success in the business statistics course was positively related to students' learning attitudes and their perceived value of statistics education, and negatively related to anxiety with regard to their performance in the course (Cybinski & Selvanathan, 2005). Zanakis and Valenzi (1997) established that test taking and lack of understanding of statistics were the highest sources of anxiety, and the statistics grade was influenced by math anxiety and computer experience. In summary, previous studies have examined students' characteristics i.e. age, gender, GPA, grades of prerequisites, and statistics anxiety as predictors of students' success. Despite the attention that statistics courses have received in business curriculum, the research on predictors for students'...

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