Simulations on spreadsheets for complex concepts: teaching statistical power as an example
Simulations have been used as a teaching tool, most commonly through bespoke programs or using specialist software. The use of spreadsheets as an alternative means of teaching complex mathematical concepts through a simulation is described, using the topic of statistical power of tests as an example. Power is frequently not reported in research articles and it is maintained that this is because few researchers understand the concept and its relationship to research design decisions. Through the simulation it is possible for the learner to explore the design factors that influence power, plus it provides a simple way of calculating power as a planning tool. Also the spreadsheet-based model allows learners to manipulate sample size, effect size, standard deviation, alpha and number of tails, with the results shown numerically that can be used as a decision support tool. This can be used as a basis for group discussions to enhance higher cognitive skills, integrating the medium more fully into the learning process.