Sunday, February 1, 2015

2015 Joint Mathematics Meetings

Joan Garfield and Elizabeth Fry: poster-session superstars.  They shared their poster about assessments developed under the NSF e-ATLAS grant.

Two Catalysts for Change, Joan Garfield and Elizabeth Fry, kicked off the New Year with a trip to San Antonio, Texas for the Joint Math Meetings.  They arrived before the meetings began, in order to attend a workshop led by Allan Rossman, Robin Lock, and colleagues to learn about their approaches to teaching simulation and randomization-based methods in introductory statistics courses.

Elizabeth Fry presenting her paper and work on the Statistics Teaching Inventory developed under the NSF e-ATLAS grant, and solidifying her case as the next TedTalk rising star.

The fun did not stop there.  On January 10, Liz presented a contributed paper, What do we know about best practices in teaching the introductory course?  This presentation showcased the work that has been done on the Statistics Teaching Inventory, a national survey of statistics instructors, developed under the NSF e-ATLAS grant.  The following day, Joan and Liz participated in a special poster session for NSF-funded projects, where they shared more about the assessments developed under the e-ATLAS project.

In addition to bringing statistics education research and expertise, Elizabeth Fry and Joan Garfield brought a little midwestern winter to San Antonio.  Temperatures were a tad chillier than expected for local residents. Beautiful elements along the San Antonio River Walk, providing the rare sight for Minnesotans of an unfrozen body of water in winter.

Despite record cold temperatures for San Antonio (which felt balmy compared to temperatures in Minnesota), Liz and Joan spent plenty of time outside walking around, exploring the Riverwalk, and taking advantage of some of the finest dining that the city has to offer.  They particularly enjoyed excellent food and company one evening at Citrus restaurant together with John Holcomb and Nick Horton.

Joan Garfield, Elizabeth Fry, John Holcomb, and Nick Horton taking time to replenish at Citrus restaurant.  It is ill-advised to talk about statistics without sufficient food and beverage.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Reflections from the ICOTS Conference: Two Worlds

Ane's Reflections:

After finishing my Master’s degree at the University of Minnesota, I went back to Brazil and since then I have been between two “worlds”: the world of U.S., with all I learned about statistics education, and the world of Brazil, where statistics education is still growing. It has been a challenge to unite both worlds; however, at ICOTS these two worlds got together very smoothly. I had the chance to meet some professors from all parts of Brazil who were interested in statistics education. Through their work I could see some of what is being done is Brazil. I had the chance to see Claudia Borim present about developing school mathematics teachers’ reasoning about variation. I also saw other presentations about critical statistics education from Celso Campos and students’ experiences with an online exercise from Andre Samartini.
Assessment development is an area of great interest of mine, so I was excited to see all the work that has been done in developing new assessments in the US. I very much enjoyed the sessions about the LOCUS assessment presented by Tim Jacobbe and Douglas Whitaker (University of Florida). I also had a great time hearing from my colleagues at the University of Minnesota: Robert delMas presented on the CAOS instrument and Laura Ziegler presented on the BLIS assessment.
However, ICOTS and statistics education goes beyond the US and Brazil. I had a chance to meet some renowned researchers such as Carmen Batanero from Spain. In addition, I was very interested in a presentation from Caterina Primi (Italy) about using Item Response Theory to construct a scale to measure basic probabilistic reasoning skills.
All the fun I had at ICOTS and everything I learned would not have been possible without the funding I got. So thank you Joan Garfield and the IASE for the financial help. :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Reflections from the ICOTS Conference: My First ICOTS Experience

Reflections from Liz

On the Wednesday of ICOTS, Ethan and I got to visit the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. While hiking near the volcano, I was amazed at the beautiful scenery all around, and the gorgeous views I got from every angle! At one point during the hike, Ethan picked up a rock and pointed out how interesting it looked up close (see the top left frame of my photo). When I shifted my perspective from looking far away to looking at things up close, I noticed the small details and intricacies of the scenery around me, such as the tree trunk that also appears in my photo. Although the “big picture” of the scenery was gorgeous to look at, I was slower to notice the additional beauty to be seen in the details up close!

Going into the conference, I think my perspective went the other way around: I was focused on the details, asking questions like: What details of the work I did for my 90-page pre-dissertation do I share for my 15-minute contributed talk? What individual presentations am I interested in attending? The first couple of days, I got caught up in the details of how I could “session-hop” from talk to talk in order to catch as many of the presentations as possible that I wanted to see. I ended up missing portions of the presentations I planned on seeing. So later on, I tried the “big picture” approach, asking: What session themes are most interesting to me? What major topics do I want to learn about?

Going to entire sessions helped me to see the bigger ideas and themes that connect the work of researchers and scholars around the world. One presentation I enjoyed was given by Douglas Whitaker from the Florida LOCUS group. In his talk, he had a slide of various assessments that have been developed in statistics education, including the GOALS assessment that our e-ATLAS team has been working on. The slide gave me a way to visualize how this assessment fits into a larger framework, and reminded me that there are various other people at different places who share the interest of developing good assessments.

I enjoyed not only meeting new people, but reconnecting with colleagues I already knew, including the SRTL friends I had met one year earlier! It was exciting to hear from many colleagues I already knew about how their research has continued to progress, not only during their presentations but also in informal conversations over meals and snacks. One invited session I enjoyed involved research by Susanne Podworny, Janet Ainley, Keren Aridor-Berger and colleagues on technology-enhanced learning environments. At this session, it was very interesting to learn more about the big picture of students’ learning trajectories while they used technology to reason about uncertainty, as well as the details of their reasoning as shown in several excepts of students’ dialogue.

ICOTS reminded me of the importance of collaboration, communication, and being aware of what statistics education colleagues around the world are doing. While the details of our own work are important, it is also essential to step back and look at how our work fits into a larger context. We are not alone—there are many, many others who share the goal of improving the grand landscape of statistics education!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reflections from the ICOTS Conference: The Collective Fight for Statistics ducation

Nicola's reflections on ICOTS-9

The ICOTS conference was full of delightful encounters with colleagues we respect and also dearly love. How fun to jump and dance in circles with Dani Ben-Zvi when he became excited that it was time to take a photo together! ICOTS also presented opportunities for going "deeper" with folks we may or may not have engaged with much with before. I feel particularly lucky to have discussed teaching with Sandy Madden for a couple hours; her thoughtful, research-based approach to teaching blew my mind!

A profound moment occurred for me during the panel session on GTA development. When Patti Frazer Lock and Kari Lock Morgan each referred to my talk from a few days earlier, I realized that our work is meaningful not only to us, but also to others. More importantly, it is encouraging to realize that there are other statistics educators interested in our work. In short, this reminded me that we are contributing to a collective fight for better statistics education. The key word is collective.


This illustrates my biggest take-away from ICOTS: we are not alone. ICOTS helps us realize there are other statistics education researchers who are working around the world: in assessment at the K–12 levels (e.g. the Florida LOCUS group); in creating innovative documents to inform K–12 education (e.g. the SET document writers); in grappling with their national standards for statistics, many of which are embedded in math and science (e.g. Jane Watson). And as the discipline grows, statistics educators all across the world (e.g. South Africa, England, and here at home...) are faced with challenges for teacher development.

As we engage in our statistics education endeavors, ICOTS is a great chance to remember that we are not alone. We have many collaborators who are also joining in the collective fight to improve statistics education around the world.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

ICOTS 2014: Part I

Many of the Catalysts for Change are at the 9th International Conference on Teaching Statistics (ICOTS) taking place in Flagstaff, Arizona. So far there have been an abundance of thought-provoking sessions and several of our graduate students have had an opportunity to present research that they have been working on over the past year.

Ethan Brown captivates himself and the audience with some compelling work on students' response patterns to assessment items related to sample size and inference.

Anelise Sabbag shares her work examining the psychometric properties of the GOALS assessment using IRT. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

iPod Shuffle Activity wins Peter Holmes Prize

The setup of the iPod Shuffle activity
Last year, Catalysts Laura Ziegler (Ph.D. candidate) and Joan Garfield published an article in Teaching Statistics about on the iPod Shuffle activity from the CATALST introductory statistics curriculum. We are excited to announce that this article has just won the 2013 Peter Holmes Prize, which is given to the best classroom idea published in Teaching Statistics that year!

Peter writes, "I particularly liked the context of the iPod shuffle, but even more the nature of the student activity where they had to write their report giving their three 'rules'."

You can read an overview of the activity in our previous blog post, or see the full article in Teaching Statistics.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dr. Everson speaks to ASA Twin Cities about 10 years teaching statistics online

Yesterday's meeting of the American Statistical Association, Twin Cities Chapter was focused on a subject very dear to us Catalysts: statistics education!  Milo Schield of Augsburg College opened the evening by discussing "Two Big Ideas for Teaching Big Data", reflecting on the importance of causation and confounding especially in a world of data-driven decision making where the data is observational, and every association is "statistically significant."

Our Michelle Everson then spoke about the lessons she's learned from her ten years of online statistics instruction.  How do you foster active learning in the online classroom?  How do you keep the work manageable?  How involved should you be in discussion?  As someone constantly experimenting and critiquing her own techniques, Dr. Everson didn't present final answers to these questions, but she did share her accumulated wisdom from her online journey: