Teacher Perceptions and Attitudes about Teaching Statistics in P-12 Education

Article excerpt

The teaching of statistics at the elementary and secondary level is a relatively new expansion of the curriculum. Considering the many challenges faced by teachers of statistics in higher education, there is a continuing need to evaluate and monitor teaching and learning at this level. The purpose of this study was to survey elementary and secondary teachers to determine their attitudes about statistics, their perceptions related to student attitudes and achievement, and their attitudes about their preparation and training. The findings based on the results of a survey suggest that although most of the teachers have overall positive attitudes about their statistics experiences, many were undecided about their experiences, and most reported that they need additional preparation and training. Implications are discussed from the results and suggestions are offered to statistics educators in an effort to improve and advance the teaching and learning of statistics in P-12 education.

Introduction

The reform movement in statistics education helped to shape the emergence of statistics as a separate discipline (Bessant & MacPherson, 2002; Higgins, 1999; Moore, 1998) and has revolutionized the teaching and learning of statistics in all levels of education. The Undergraduate Statistics Education Initiative (USEI) of the American Statistical Association (ASA) is one of the many projects designed to advance this movement Its mission is to expand and improve undergraduate statistical education by organizing symposia and workshops, creating guidelines for programs, marketing statistics education products and programs, and supporting the continuing development and delivery of the modern statistics curriculum (Amstat News, 1999). Many other ASA-sponsorcd affiliates such as the Center for Statistics Education, the section of Statistical Education, and the ASA -MAA (Mathematical Association of America) Joint Committee on Undergraduate Statistics also have similar objectives. As a result of the many reform efforts, "statistical literacy" has become an important objective in many undergraduate and graduate level classrooms as well as across various disciplines.

The teaching and learning of statistics has increased dramatically in the elementary and secondary schools over the past few years. The Quantitative Literacy Project of the American Statistical Association, which began in the 1980s, provides instructional materials related to statistics and probability for the pre-coliege curriculum, in addition, the release of a standards-based curriculum (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), 1989; 1991; 2000), designed to improve mathematics education from pre-kindergarten to grade 12 (P-12), includes content standards that emphasize probability and statistical reasoning (i.e.. Data Analysis and Probability). As a result, more students are studying statistics, particularly hi secondary education. One indication is that the number of students taking the Advanced Placement (AP) statistics examination has more than quadrupled from 1997 to 2000 (Peck, 2001).

Teacher Preparation

In response to the recent demands placed on P-12 teachers to teach statistics, there continues to be much discussion and research about how to best train and prepare teachers for the classroom. Administrators, statistics educators, and other organizations are also involved with advancing the development of the teaching of statistics in the P-12 curriculum. The AP statistics program, in association with the College Board, offers programs such as Pre-AP while Beyond AP Stats (BAPS) and the Adopt-a-School Program are ASA-affiliated programs - all provide support for the teaching and learning of statistics for teachers and students in P-12 education. In addition, pre-and in-service workshops are also offered by many school districts and local universities for the ongoing and continuing education needs of elementary and secondary teachers. …