ICOTS-4: THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON TEACHING STATISTICS

Anne Hawkins
President, IASE
London, England

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 1, Number 1 (Winter 1995)


The 4th International Conference on Teaching Statistics was held in the Congress Palace in Marrakech, Morocco, 25-30 July 1994, preceded by a satellite conference for Arabic-speakers in Cairo, Egypt. ICOTS events are held every fourth year as part of the International Association for Statistical Education (IASE) series of annual international meetings. Previous venues have been Sheffield in the U.K., Victoria in British Colombia, Canada, and Dunedin in New Zealand. Marrakech was the first francophone venue. One object behind the choice of successive venues has been to enable delegates from as wide a range of developing and transition countries to attend, and to bring progress in statistical education to the attention of local teachers in as many different areas of the world as possible.

More than 300 delegates attended, from 45 countries. The program included English, French, Spanish and Arabic working groups on The Statistics Curriculum Towards the Year 2000, and on The Development of Educational Software in Statistics, plus invited and contributed paper sessions on topics such as research on teaching and learning statistics and probability, the use and impact of technology, teacher-training, projects and hands-on classroom activities, and initiatives in teaching specialist and non-specialist statistics (both within formal institutional settings - primary, secondary, post-secondary, postgraduate and professional - and also in the broader, less formal arenas for raising public awareness and statistical literacy).

Research on teaching and learning statistics and probability concepts was one of the dominant themes of the conference. With successive ICOTS conferences, empirically supported conclusions have gradually been accumulated and, although the research substratum for statistical education may still be in its infancy compared to that of other pedagogical areas within the curriculum, research agendas are being defined. The results of the growing body of research have major implications for the ways in which we teach statistics and probability. It is vital that future research is aimed at bridging the gap between what we know about students' conceptual difficulties and what we know about how to solve them.

Reports on developments in the areas of computer software and the use of television and multi-media for teaching statistics highlighted trends towards bringing statistics to a much broader (possibly distant) audience. A considerable diversity of opinions emerged with respect to the use of computers in statistical education. No doubt the different views expressed will undergo further examination in the light of both ICOTS-4 discussions and also technological advances during the next four years, promising an exciting starting point in these areas for ICOTS-5.

The role of (exploratory) data analysis within statistical education programs was a popular topic of discussion that recurred in the context of many of the conference sessions. So, too, were the potentially misleading nature of probability intuitions and, consequently, ways of encouraging careful analysis and logical systematic thinking. Visual and graphical techniques are just one example of approaches that were proposed for overcoming students' unreliable intuitions.

Copies of the ICOTS-4 proceedings (2 volumes) are available from ISI office, 428 Prinses Beatrixlaan, PO Box 950, 2270 AZ Voorburg, The Netherlands. The price is U.S. $60 including postage (ISI members U.S. $50, IASE members U.S. $45). The ISBN number is 90-73592-09-7.

Further reports incorporating working group discussions are to be found in issues of IASE Matters. The Autumn issue, found in Teaching Statistics vol.16(3), concentrated on Research in Statistical Education and Developments in Technology. The next two editions will carry reports of the working groups on Curriculum Developments. The latest issue of the IASE section of ISI Newsletter (distributed free to all members of IASE) included a report of the Arab-speaking satellite conference. The next issue, which will be published in Spring 1995, will contain a report of the ICOTS sessions on Hands-on and Project Based Teaching. For further details contact

Anne Hawkins
64 Bedford Court Mansions
Bedford Ave.
Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3AD
United Kingdom
Tel/FAX: 44-71-636-0058
teexash@ioe.ac.uk


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