Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Pictures and Cases: Development of Case-Based Teaching Courseware to Improve Student Understanding of Statistics

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Pictures and Cases: Development of Case-Based Teaching Courseware to Improve Student Understanding of Statistics

Article excerpt


It is widely accepted that statistics students have negative perceptions of statistics as well as difficulties in mastering fundamental concepts (Cochran 2005, Kotz 2010, Prabhakar 2008). Garfield and Ben-Zvi (2007) argue that statistics education is emerging as a discipline in its own right, with a proliferation of research studies appearing into the teaching and learning of statistics and probability. Today's introductory statistics course is actually a family of courses taught across many disciplines and departments; with students having different backgrounds and goals (Aliaga, et al. 2012:10).

Literature related to teaching and learning statistic pedagogical methods, instructional formats, and technological tools, finds that students are often faced with general mathematical problem solving issues. Further, they have problems understanding concepts specific to statistics such as an incomplete understanding of control variables inferring causality from correlation, or confusing probability with typicality (Murtonen and Lehtinen 2003).

Technology is also increasingly playing a larger role in the education of students of statistics (Ben-Zvi 2000, Chance et al. 2007); however, the authors stress the importance of choosing an appropriate technology tool that enhances student collaboration and student-instructor interactions instead of a poor technology that causes students to spend more time learning to use the software than applying it. A further constraint to successfully learning statistics arises from a failure to provide learning experiences in problem solving (Norman, Henk, and Schmidt 2000). These issues may be compounded as some commentators suggest that many teachers may have limited statistical content knowledge as well as little, if no, exposure to any specific pedagogy related to the teaching of statistics (Froelich, Leinmann and Thompson 2011, Sorto 2011). This further reduces students' statistical literacy development with many quickly falling behind resulting in a disliking for statistics.

To counter this with an aim to have students gain a more meaningful and valuable experience in their learning, the author developed a case-based teaching method that includes a set of illustrations as visual cues, called Pictorial Icons (PI), that assist in the delivery of abstract mathematical concepts to students in an engaging, easily understood manner. Cases are an active learning paradigm of guided inquiry embedded in problem-based instruction (Problem Based Learning) where learners are presented with a problem scenario (or case) from which to imagine and research potential outcomes and conclusions (Andrews, Hull & Donahue 2009). The case-based method was chosen as research studies have indicated that case studies facilitate and promote Active Learning, help problem solving, and encourage the development of higher order critical thinking skills through the interpretation of information and the creation of ideas (Boston University, undated; Kaddoura, 2011; Nair, et al. 2013; Popil, 2011). The benefits of the case experience are derived from the interaction between the problem, task and setting (Bruner, 2004). Similar applications are found with Marriott, Davies and Gibson (2009) who review how teachers of statistics have gradually proposed changing the way statistics is taught to make it more relevant by drawing on real problems in real contexts. The chosen approach is also in line with the call for using authentic, real world problem contexts for the teaching of statistics, as recommended in the Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education (GAISE, 2005), which state that statistics educators, specifically, should foster active learning in the classroom through techniques such as group problem solving, hands-on activities and discussion.

After experimenting and trialling this teaching method for three years with positive verbal and written student feedback, as well as improved learning outcomes, the author wanted to test the pedagogical effectiveness of this case-based approach for teaching statistics. …

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