Not your parents’ statistics course

One day, statistical literacy will be as important as any other kind of literacy.  That day is here.

An enthusiastic group including faculty from 7 departments and staff from throughout  Duke met on Feb 3, 2012 to discuss Statistics education, at the Duke Statistics Education Summit.  The stated goal of the Summit was “sharing how we teach introductory statistics conceptually and using real data from many disciplines and applications, and fostering an interactive discussion where faculty from around the campus share their thoughts on how best to prepare students for future classes, research, and careers in other disciplines.” The organizers have provided a summary of the day’s events.

Two new Professors of the Practice in Statistical Sciences, Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel and Kari Lock Morgan demonstrated how they teach the  introductory statistics courses, making this participant wish she were one of their students.  Their courses have been redesigned based on Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education (GAISE) to incorporate:

  • active learning,
  • conceptual understanding,
  • motivation from day one,
  • and using real data.

The examples of each were compelling, and showed that students in these courses benefit because they:

  • learn to analyze data in their own field,
  • are exposed to the types of problems addressed in a wide variety of fields,
  • learn to process and use information effectively,
  • think critically about problems, and
  • become educated citizens.

Eight students from a variety of fields described specific examples of the beneficial impact of their statistics course on their careers.

The Summit participants then discussed when and why students should take introductory statistics, a  placement exam and guiding incoming students, as well as a number of issues described by the organizers (PDF).

The Department of Statistical Science is leading the way in addressing the new challenges facing higher education by thinking carefully about their introductory courses, and hiring amazing new faculty to redesign the courses according to what works. The discussion continues!