AP Statistics Examines Survey Response Bias
Posted 03/01/2018 01:43PM

Students Create Surveys and Present Results

By Rob Nichols, Upper School Math

For a trimester-long project, AP Statistics students were tasked with designing and conducting an experiment to investigate the effects of response bias in surveys. Students chose a topic of their desire to help write the survey, and needed to test the results of response bias.

The first stage of the project, due a few weeks into the start of the winter trimester, was a proposal that included a brief literature review, written research questions, and the establishment of a valid survey design. Students were asked to write their final proposals in a format similar to the requirements of a first chapter of a dissertation.

The next stage of the project was the survey design and data collection. Students designed their survey to help answer their own research questions in addition to measuring response bias. Students could choose to work individually or in small groups. They developed short surveys of 5-10 questions on a range of topics, including asking about the effects of the new 1930 Grill at the Discovery Center on student culture, participation of females in athletics, effects of a possible requirement to attend one athletic event and one arts event, the travel ban, and many more.

Twenty-two surveys were created to be given to Upper School students and staff. Many students developed two forms of the surveys to test response bias to the wording of questions. Some students sent surveys tracking email address and not tracking email address to test the results of anonymity on responses. Some students administered an online survey and an in-person survey to test the results of interviewer bias.

The surveys were approved by me and then sent out to their selected sample. Students needed to use random sampling which meant some students in the Upper School would receive no surveys, some would receive only one survey, and other students would receive multiple surveys from different AP Stats students. Once data collection was completed, students prepared a professional scientific proposal to educate others about the rationale, design, and results of their research. The poster was due at the end of January.

The broad sense of exploration was on response bias. This generally encompasses how a participant's response is affected by several different factors. Some students explored how the wording of a question, order of questions, anonymous surveys, or interviewers could elicit a different response. The choice of exploration of a specific bias was left to students to decide. Some groups found a distinct difference in the way participants responded in all of the different applications of response bias. Some groups did not find a difference.

The final stage of the project was presenting their results and poster to the class or larger community. An important part of research is communicating your research to others in several formats. During the presentations, students discussed the need to reach out to other populations and inform them about the important results of their research. Three days of presentations took place at the end of February and the beginning of March.

The students really enjoyed the project. They were able to apply statistical concepts to any area they wanted. As such, students researched topics they were truly interested in. Some students used this project to help delve deeper in the areas of study for their Signature Program Capstone project. Some students used this project to investigate social issues of high school students because of topics they see being discussed at school. During the early presentations, students described how they wanted to present their findings to the administration and students to help move forward positive change at Bullis. Some also mentioned how they want to continue their research in college. They have been extremely enthusiastic during the entire project and impressed me with their level of work.

Throughout all aspects of the project, students used the concepts learned in AP Statistics to conduct scientific research. The students were given the opportunity to investigate topics and questions most important to them and to show how statistics is useful in all areas of life.

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