RSS CENTRE FOR STATISTICAL EDUCATION

Anne Hawkins
University of Nottingham

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 2, Number 2 (Summer 1996)


The Royal Statistical Society Centre for Statistical Education, within the Mathematics Department of the University of Nottingham, was formally established on 1 August 1995. It isfunded (initially for five years) jointly by the University, the RSS and SPSS(UK) Ltd. In addition to financial sponsorship, however, it has the support of many other individuals and institutions concerned with statistical education.

The Centre's brief is to promote the improvement of statistical education and thinking at all levels, i.e. within education (primary to post-secondary), within employment (including the continuing professional development of statisticians, and all who use statistics as part of their professional lives or who work with statisticians), and within society at large. The Centre will be a focus for national and international collaboration, and will actively engage in statistical education research as well as stimulating and providing support for initiatives elsewhere.

The RSS Centre starts from a position of strength. Dr. Hawkins, its Director, is also President of the International Association for Statistical Education (IASE). She will see to it that the Centre establishes its own distinctive character. However, it can also build upon the excellent reputation enjoyed by the University of Sheffield Centre for Statistical Education until its closure in August 1995, after nearly 20 years of operation. With 5 years' guaranteed funding, the RSS Centre will have time to undertake work of considerable significance, and it starts with many national and international collaborations already in existence.

The remit of the RSS Centre is extremely broad and priorities will have to be identified. The new Centre will have several initial tasks that will involve identifying current needs at all levels. It is anticipated that it will commission material, when required, from experts across the whole spectrum of statistical education. It will cooperate closely with the RSS and its constituent committees, and with IASE and other international bodies, in the debate on statistical education. Particularly important will be an anticipated partnership with industry and commerce to develop in-service courses. As well as undertaking research in its own right, the Centre will encourage other Universities and research institutes to carry out research into statistical education at all levels and in all contexts. It will run conferences and courses, and contribute to appropriate national and international publications. Cooperation with the Department for Education and Employment, and the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA), will be sought to improve statistical teaching and assessment.

The RSS Centre's first funded research will be a project entitled 'Matching Statistical Training and Assessment with Employment Needs'. This will be a two-year project, focusing on statistical education at the Higher Education level. Anne Hawkins will direct the project, in collaboration with a core project team comprising Peter Holmes and Gillian Constable (University of Sheffield), Neville Davies (Nottingham Trent University), and Margaret Rangecroft (Sheffield Hallam University). Several other groups and organizations have already committed themselves to being involved.

Initially, contacts will be forged with employers of graduates who are involved with statistics in their work (either as specialists or non-specialists), and with the graduate employees themselves. The next step will be to identify the nature of the mismatch between statistical training & assessment and employment needs. The project team will then (by means of publicity and workshops/seminars, etc.) draw interested parties into an ongoing network that will identify and disseminate good practice. The project team will also produce, pilot and evaluate materials for use by trainers. Some of the 'network' activity would be electronic, but not to the exclusion of potential participants without internet access. The ultimate objective would be to establish a network of trainers, employers and employees which would outlive the two year sponsorship period, and which would continue to engage in research, working towards improving the employability of graduates and making them more useful to employers.

For further information contact:

Anne Hawkins
Director, RSS Center for Statistical Education
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RD
Phone: 44 (0)115-951-4911/62
Fax: 44 (0)115-951-4951
E-mail: ash@maths.nott.ac.uk

Editors' Note: This article was written for the previous issue of this newsletter, but was postponed for space considerations.


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