Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Technology-Rich Standards-Based Statistics: Improving Introductory Statistics at the College Level

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Technology-Rich Standards-Based Statistics: Improving Introductory Statistics at the College Level

Article excerpt

Reasons for universities to teach with a standards-based approach are increasing. High schools in many states, often by decree of the state legislature, have already gone to a system in which curricula are rewritten to align student outcomes, instructional delivery and assessment. Typically, specific goals of content standards are broken down into several indicators -- objectives that can be measured by a performance-based assessment. The assessment is scored by a rubric which specifies m a meaningful way (as opposed to a letter grade, which could vary greatly from teacher to teacher) performance levels for each of the pre-specified criteria.

In 1993, the Colorado General Assembly enacted HB93-1313, making K-12 public schools develop content standards and performance-based assessments by 1997. So these students are expecting more compatibility with universities in terms of how admission criteria will be established and in terms of assessment in university classes themselves. (A traditional "index" may no longer cover all schools, especially those with more integrated or interdisciplinary curricula) This is even more critical for universities which serve preservice teachers, Since they will need to experience and have modeled the very structure they will be implementing when they graduate.

There is a great deal of research literature on technology in the mathematics classroom, from Heid[1] and others, and some scattered literature on standards based education, for example from Loacker and Mentkowski[2]. There do not seem to be any research studies specifically involving the intersection of these two domains, however. Robson is an example of an emerging expository literature in this intersection that comes from the first states to mandate standards-based education[3]. Robson's focus is on the systemic statewide educational community, while the author focused on a specific course.

The author was one of twelve from a variety of curriculum areas selected to be part of a team of faculty in the first year of the university's Educational Technology Improvement Project, funded by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. The author redesigned the introductory (non-calculus-based) statistics course that serves both as a general education requirement and as a course specifically required by a variety of majors at the university. In this quasi-experimental study, data was/collected and analyzed about this course by an independent project evaluator, by the author and by mathematics education doctoral students. The research discussed in this article is actually part of a larger study examining student preconceptions and attitudes in introductory statistics. This article focuses on possible interrelationships and effects of technology and a standards-based approach.

The Department of Mathematical Sciences typically offers about six 40-student sections of introductory statistics each semester, and before this project the department had not consistently or thoroughly integrated a technology-rich standards-based approach to the course. During the spring 1997 semester, the author taught one section of the redesigned version of the course while other instructors continued to teach in ways that were more traditional. The three instructors who taught the sections from which data were collected were all experienced instructors with a history of solid teaching evaluations. (Encouraged by the results obtained, many of next year's instructors will be incorporating or utilizing parts of the author's approach and resources.) Students did not know at the time of registration whether or not their section was the "treatment" section. Various quantitative and qualitative data were collected from the treatment section and two of the "traditional" sections.

The Content Standards

With feedback from other Project members and the Project Director, the author developed the following two standards to drive the course and its assessments:

1) Students will be able to critically evaluate statistics in the media and in their major field of interest. …

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