Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Graduate Programs in Statistics Education Workshop: Planning for a Vibrant Future

Where will future statistics education researchers come from? The discipline now has journals and conferences, but we face a need for systematic, high quality training of a continual pipeline of statistics education researchers to create a flow of fresh perspectives that integrate with a deep understanding of what has been learned before.

Building on the successes of its 10-year-old statistics education program in the Department of Educational Psychology, the University of Minnesota hosted a Graduate Programs in Statistics Education Workshop on September 28, 2012, for other institutions looking to develop their programs, connect their research, and find opportunities for collaboration. This meeting at UMN's STEM Education Center brought together faculty already involved in planning and implementing these efforts to share their progress, consult on challenges, and form productive collaborations, and was made possible by a Member Initiated Grant from the American Statistical Association (ASA).

Xiao-Li Meng
On the first day, we heard from participants about the main issues that institutions face in implementing statistics education graduate programs. What departments should a statistics education program be affiliated with? How should the teaching and research components be balanced? How much statistics training should be involved? How should statistics education non-degree, Masters, and Ph.D. programs fit with structures in place for Mathematics or Science Education Ph.D.s? Xiao-Li Meng of Harvard University discussed the importance of preparing excellent statistics instructors, and Dennis Pearl of Ohio State University discussed how the current workshop related to guidelines [PDF] developed by a previous workshop that was endorsed by the ASA and the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education. Joan Garfield and Michelle Everson of the University of Minnesota discussed the issues and challenges of a "Stat Ed 101" course with participants.

Dick Scheaffer, Mike Shaughnessy
The participants got to work on the second day to brainstorm next steps. Dick Scheaffer (past president of ASA) and Mike Shaughnessy (past president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) set the tone by discussing the importance of statistics education graduate programs to K-12 teachers, and much of the remainder of the day was spent on small group discussions on the logistics, funding, and coursework that would be involved in non-degree, Masters, and Ph.D. programs. Dennis Pearl provided context for the discussion by providing an overview of a report that resulted from an American Statistical Association retreat on research priorities for statistics education, Connecting Research to Practice in a Culture of Assessment for Introductory College-level Statistics [PDF].

This report underscores why we need these statistics education programs to begin with: the urgent need to improve our understanding of cognitive outcomes, affective constructs, curriculum, teaching practice, teacher development, technology, and assessment in our field means we need strong institutional homes and training grounds for improving the breadth and effectiveness of the research.