I’m pretty sure that none of us became teachers just so that we could teach our students to achieve assessments. We became teachers because we care about students; we care about their learning and we care about making a difference to their lives in positive and empowering ways. We also absolutely care about preparing students well for the assessment, but we also need to care about the messages that students take away from our teaching in terms of what statistics is all about.

I gave a plenary at the Christchurch Mathematical Association (CMA) Statistics Day in November 2015 where I presented 10 ways to embrace the awesomeness that is our statistics curriculum and re-focus our teaching on what we value in learning statistics. I am going to post about each way separately so I can also discuss what I had planned to talk about but didn’t end up talking about 🙂 You can find all the posts related to this plenary in one place here as they are written.

The original title for this plenary was 10 ways to show your students that you care about more than the assessment in your teaching of statistics. Assessment is an essential part of teaching – in fact I am not even sure you can call something teaching without assessment. It would be like cooking but not tasting, talking but not listening…… But I am worried that without our intention, students may be receiving less than great messages about learning or doing statistics, and may think that we care more about what they write for the assessment than what they understand about statistics. I watched an online video recently that a teacher had made for students about developing a purpose for a statistical investigation. In this video the teacher said something like “It doesn’t matter what you write as long as you link it to the data…..”. I don’t think the words “it doesn’t matter what you write” should be a message that students should be given about communicating statistics.
Nor do I think the message “You can write anything you want in statistics as long as you justify it” is quite right either. What I think is important in our teaching of statistics is that our students are encouraged to make connections and that we focus on developing statistical thinking. We should also we care about messages that we send students about statistics because we also want students to care about the messages that others try to send them about statistics. We definitely don’t want students to accept any claim that is made using statistics just because someone has attempted a justification. We want them to be able to critically evaluate these messages. The 10 ways I will discuss I hope will show examples of these three important teaching focuses in action 🙂
Anna teaches introductory-level statistics at the University of Auckland. She enjoys facilitating workshops to support professional development of statistics teachers and thinks teaching statistics (and mathematics) is awesome. Anna is also undertaking a PhD in statistics education.
10 ways to embrace the awesomeness that is our statistics curriculum