A narrated concept map for statistics

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ICOTS6, 2002: Bulmer

A NARRATED CONCEPT MAP FOR STATISTICS  Michael Bulmer The University of Queensland Australia Some students in a service statistics course struggle with the material because they focus too much on the mathematical details and miss the broader issues and relevance to their degree program. It has proved useful for them to have the lecturer narrate a story, which gives abroad overview of the area while simultaneously drawing a rough concept map as an illustration. Of course this is very time consuming and impractical for large classes. We are currently developing and trialing a computer-based version of this setting, creating an interactive concept map with a narrative that students can follow as needed. INTRODUCTION An introduction to statistics is becoming anessential course in many degree programs. However, students have usually encountered statistics already, as part of their secondary school mathematics. This leads many to retain the perception that statistics is their "maths" course and that it is all about mechanical calculations and methods. As a result, it is common to see a few students at the end of semester who have no real understanding of whatthe course has been about and why it is essential to their profession. I have found that one way to give them the “big picture” they are missing is to create a concept map in front of them while also telling them the story of how the pieces fit together and where the maths is actually needed. This kind of narrated diagram has been successful and much appreciated by a number of students but is ofcourse very time consuming for the lecturer. We are currently developing a multimedia equivalent, a narrated interactive concept map, so that the overview can be used more widely. This paper gives a description of project, dubbed ConceptStats, the feedback from student participating in the initial trial, and a discussion of issues arising from the trial. SETTING Teaching applied statistics is quitedifferent to teaching standard mathematics courses. There is some need for algebraic manipulation and numerical skill, but the overwhelming need is for a qualitative understanding of why statistical analysis is necessary and what are the important ideas involved in it. Cobb and Moore (1997) suggest that “statistics requires a different kind of thinking [to mathematics], because data are not justnumbers, they are numbers with a context.”(p 801). Following this philosophy, in 1999 a whole introductory course was taught with a qualitative emphasis (Bulmer, 1999), using activities and project work to replace lectures and assignments. This proved very successful and components from that course are now being used in other courses, but the overall approach is too time consuming to use withlarge first-year classes. At the same time, statistics teaching is naturally suited to the use of software and multimedia, particularly since data analysis has a strong visual component. Indeed, as discussed by Velleman and Moore (1996), statistical software itself has a dual role in teaching. On the one hand it can be used to illustrate ideas through simulation and visualisation, but at the same timebeing able to use statistical software is an important professional skill. Velleman’s own ActivStats (Velleman, 1998) has been a successful CD-ROM package that combines an interactive statistics course with statistical software and relates the two together. Packages like ActivStats do a good job of teaching statistics but they still follow the traditional textbook sequence. Links can be providedin these to encourage students to explore relationships, but this could equally well be done with a textbook. The aim of this project in developing an object similar to a concept map is to bring forward the important interrelations in statistics without also carrying the detail of a full exposition. CONCEPT MAPPING Concept maps (Novak & Gowin, 1984) have become increasingly popular in recent...
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