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Using Computers to Analyze Data

This is an excerpt from Measurement and Evaluation in Human Performance With Web Study Guide-5th Edition by James Morrow, Jr.,Dale Mood,James Disch & Minsoo Kang.

Computer technology is now pervasive in schools and businesses. Many schools and businesses require students and employees to be computer literate - able to interact with computers daily for work and pleasure. Some universities require students to have personal computers, whereas others actually give them to students when they pay tuition. Computers have such a big influence in our daily lives (they're involved in everything from grocery shopping and banking to using the telephone) that we have to be able to use them. Computer literacy does not require one to be a computer programmer; one simply needs to be able to use computers in daily life, for example, to conduct daily tasks or for enjoyment (e.g., surfing the Internet).

Exercise scientists and physical educators must make many measurement and evaluation decisions that involve numbers, which computers are particularly adept at handling. Because the exercise and human performance professions require daily use of computers, you must familiarize yourself with their features and uses specific to your field so that you can understand and use the concepts presented in this text. Many of the decisions that you will make in your field require data analysis. Thus, we will introduce you to SPSS (IBM SPSS Statistics), a powerful data analysis program that will help you save, retrieve, and analyze much of the measurement and evaluation data that you will encounter daily.

SPSS makes number crunching fast, efficient, and almost painless. For example, the most important characteristics of any test are its reliability and validity. As you will learn in chapters 3, 4, 6, and 7, computers can generate data related to reliability and validity in a matter of seconds. This will be illustrated throughout the textbook. Many statistics can help you make valid decisions. Chapters 3 through 14 provide you with many opportunities to practice using SPSS in scenarios similar to those you will encounter in your profession.

Additionally, we present information about how to create databases with Microsoft Excel. These Excel databases can be easily read with SPSS. The benefit of creating your database with Excel is that it is readily available on computers. Thus, you could create your database while at home and then conduct the analysis with SPSS. We provide more information for Excel users in the appendix. You will learn more about that as you read through chapter 2.

Measurement uses for a computer in human performance, kinesiology, and physical education include the following:

  • Accessing the Internet to obtain information relative to your specific job responsibilities. Whether seeking normative strength measures for your personal trainer clients, researching reports regarding the most effective modality for treating patients in your PT clinic, or accessing health and fitness data from large scale populations, you will use the Internet on a nearly daily basis once you have completed your training and entered your professional career.
  • Determining test reliability and validity. Statistics learned in chapters 3, 4, and 5 can be used to estimate the reliability (consistency) and validity (truthfulness) of test results in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. SPSS examples are provided in chapters 3 through 14.
  • Evaluating cognitive test results and physiological test performance. Computers can help evaluate and report individual test results. Likewise, you can quickly retrieve, analyze, and return test results to study participants. You can estimate your risk for development of diabetes from the American Diabetes Association ( and your risk of cardiovascular disease from the American Heart Association ( Consider the physical therapist who wants to track patient improvement. Using the computer to track and display data serves as an excellent source of formative and summative evaluation.
  • Conducting program evaluation. Computers can calculate changes in overall student performance and learning across teaching units or track individual changes in a student's performance.
  • Conducting research activities. You can compare an experimental group of study participants with a control group to determine if your new intervention program has a significant effect on cognitive or physiological performance.
  • Developing presentations. Specialized software can be used to create powerful presentations you can make before students, potential clients, patients, and professional peers. The presentations can include text, pictures, video, graphics, animations, and sound to effectively present your message. Perhaps your instructor is using the presentation package that accompanies this textbook to illustrate specific points.
  • Assessing student performance.Students and clients are always interested in how they perform on tests, whether the tests are cognitive, psychomotor, or physiological. Students, teachers, and clinicians are interested in what their individual scores are, how they are interpreted, what they mean, and what effect they have. Computers make it easy to provide the answers to all these questions.
  • Storing test items. Teachers always have to keep records of student grades. Programs that permit entry and manipulation of student data records are called spreadsheets. Spreadsheets are essentially computer versions of a data matrix with rows and columns of information. Students' names are often found in the first column, and data from course assignments fill the remaining columns. Thus, each row represents a student and each column holds scores from tests and other assignments. If the instructor keeps a daily record of class grades, then average grades, final grades, printed reports, and so on can be generated with a few computer keystrokes. Likewise, health and fitness professionals can keep records of workouts and changes in weight, strength, aerobic capacity, and so forth.
  • Creating written tests.Computers can serve as a bank for written test items. Rather than having to develop a new test each time you teach a unit, you can store test items on your computer and generate a different test each time you teach the unit. Test banks can be built using word-processing or test-development software. Some test-development programs are quite sophisticated and permit you to choose an item not only by content area but also by type of item, degree of difficulty, or date created.
  • Calculating numerous statistics. Physiological measurements often involve equations for estimating values. For example, skinfolds are used to estimate percent body fat, and distance runs and heart rate measurements are used to estimate maximal oxygen consumption. The computer can greatly assist in calculating these values. Rather than substituting each number into an equation and going through the steps to complete the calculation, you can enter the formula into the computer once and automatically calculate the desired value for each person. For example, go to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website ( and calculate your body mass index (BMI).

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