Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Statistical Literacy Social Media Project for the Masses

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Statistical Literacy Social Media Project for the Masses

Article excerpt

With the rise of mobile computing, learners are coming to campus equipped with powerful devices that are capable of farther-reaching engagement and interaction than prior generations. Harnessing those devices through the use of social media in a curriculum can be a challenge for any instructor, requiring thoughtful planning of purposeful activities, facilitation of discussion, and technical considerations for the scope and scale of the course. In this article, we describe a social media statistical literacy project used in a large, introductory-level course. We then analyze the results of a survey conducted to examine student work habits and attitudes on this project. Finally, we discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using social media, assignment writing and grading challenges for large classes with various delivery methods, and our university's solution for using social media for academic purposes.

The Goal: Statistical Literacy

Statistics and Society is an introductory-level statistical literacy course primarily for liberal arts majors but taken by other students to meet information literacy and science, technology and society core curriculum criteria. The goal of this class is to teach the students to become informed consumers of statistics and to understand how statistics are used in their daily lives. Statistical literacy does not involve lengthy calculations but is defined as "being able to take information and explain it, judge it, evaluate it, and make decisions based on that information" (Rumsey, 2002). Best practices for statistical education include using active learning and real-life situations (Aliaga et al., 2005). In this class, the students learn how to discuss mixed media (articles, videos, websites, and podcasts, for example) that use statistical results, determining whether the data were collected correctly, what lurking variables should be considered, the appropriateness of the analysis techniques and graphs used, and whether the author correctly interpreted the research conclusions (e.g., causation vs. correlation). Students learn how to use logical, critical thinking and to be confident and empowered when asking questions to authority figures (including physicians, politicians, reporters, and corporate leaders) about the detailed evidence for their claims. If statistical literacy is important, then effective assessments which give students opportunities to learn and practice statistical literacy skills are needed (Garfield, 1994).

The Challenges: Large Course and Multiple Delivery Formats

The statistical literacy course has over 400 students each semester, and these students are split between large-lecture traditional sections (over 300 students), fully online sections (approximately 80 students), and flipped sections (approximately 60 students). The traditional section students attend the large lecture class twice per week and smaller-group recitation once per week. The fully online section students only see their instructor for proctored exams-all lecture material and coursework are done online. The flipped section students have online lectures and some online work, but they meet with their classmates and instructor one day per week for group work and hands-on activities to reinforce the concepts taught in the online lectures. All sections are closely coordinated with the same lead instructor, lectures (whether online or in person), assignments, and exams.

Effective assessments should be well-integrated into the course and provide constructive feedback (including peer and self-review), opportunities for higher- order thinking, and clear guidelines with consistent and fair grading (Chance, 1997). The challenge lies in how to incorporate effective assessments involving writing and creativity into classes with hundreds of students. Equal opportunity for peer discussion for students in the traditional, online, and flipped sections was also an important consideration. For this course, graduate student teaching assistants, many of whom are new to teaching and to this type of assignment, are responsible for the grading. …

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