Q&A with Becoming a Teacher of Statistics Class: Part III




April 2, 2018


This post is the third in a series of blogposts in which I respond to questions from the students in the Becoming a Teacher of Statistics course. In today’s posting I respond to questions related to teaching.

In your CATALST paper written with Huberty you mention that after school computer labs can be a potential improvement for the CSI courses you installed in Minnesota schools. Since it’s been a couple years, have you seen any schools take you up on this idea? I would agree that more one-on-one time with a teacher may be more beneficial for shyer students. Especially for those in the beginning of the course that have the preconceived notion that they “suck at mathematics and therefore will not do as well as in your course”.

I think many of the teachers make sure time is available after school for students to work on the computers with TinkerPlots™. What I don’t know is how many students take advantage of it. Many of them are involved in after-school activities, or have other obligations that keep them from making it into the lab after school.

I think what tends to be more important than the one-on-one time is the pedagogy used in the classroom. The educational research overwhelmingly suggests that pedagogy matters for student learning, and that students in student-centered classrooms outperform their counterparts in lecture-based courses. (This is especilly true for minority and disadvantaged students; see here.)

Do you change your material and/or approach when teaching intro stats to high schoolers (AP or College in the Schools, for example) versus teaching it to undergrads versus grad students?

Great question. Let me preface my answer with saying that although I taught high school for four years, this was around 1998 (the Backstreet Boys and N’Sync were big) and I haven’t really taught that age-level since.

From working with high school teachers, and from some recollection, the big difference is that when teaching a high school class, you have far more time than we do at the university/college level. High school courses tend to meet every day, while we only meet twice a week. This means you can allow more time for the concepts and skills to develop when teaching a high school course.

The assessments are also generally far less high-stakes than they are at the college level. In college you may have one or two exams that make up almost all of your grade. In high school, it is not uncommon to have many assessment opportunities throughout a course.

So, material-wise, I would employ many of the same materials in the high school course that we do in the college course. But, I would supplement these with other activities and materials that build-on the ideas and give students opportunities to practice what they’ve learned.

Pedagogically, I would try to approach things the same way, including discussions and cooperative learning. I believe that learning takes hard work and it is the student’s responsibility. I can facilitate that learning, but it is ultimately up to the student to take on that hard work. The brain is a muscle that needs to be worked out. Like physical work outs, you need to build-up to larger “weights”. Focusing on the process, not the product, is also important as the goal (learning) is a long-term outcome. It may be harder to convinve a high school student that this process, which takes time, is worthwhile.