Patricia L. Busk
University of San Francisco

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 3, Number 2 (Summer 1997)

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) is composed of 10 Divisions and more than 100 Special Interest Groups (SIGs) focusing on particular aspects of education. Within each Division, there may be as many as 6 sections addressing different aspects of the Divisional topic. Members of AERA belong to one or more Divisions and one or more SIGs. Most individuals conduct research in educational areas in academic arenas ranging from elementary to post- secondary and report the results of their research at the annual meeting of AERA. The researchers may be faculty members in Schools of Education in colleges and universities, teachers or administrators in school districts, staff of federally- and state-funded research centers, staff of large testing companies, or members of local, state, and federal departments of education. There is an international presence with researchers from many countries presenting results of their research in their home countries.

Division C (Learning and Instruction) has a section that has an interest in statistical education: Section 2 Mathematics. Within this section, the emphasis is on research on learning, instruction, and assessment including problem solving, concept and strategy growth and change, as well as psychological, social, and cultural factors in mathematics learning. A SIG that often cosponsors sessions with Division C is Research in Mathematics Education (RME). Recent sessions focusing on mathematics learning have addressed adolescent understanding of sampling in the context of a survey, visual manipulatives for propositional reasoning, exploring students' informal knowledge of statistics in the middle school, assessing mathematics knowledge with concept maps and interpretive essays, and mathematical thinking.

At the elementary-, middle-, and secondary-school levels of instruction, educators are concerned with the results of research using the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data. For example, Sharon Bobbitt (National Center for Educational Statistics) reported on schools effects, teacher preparation, and their impact on students' math self- concept at the 1995 annual meeting, and Frank Jenkins' (ETS) NAEP mathematics attribution study was presented at the 1997 meeting in Chicago. The annual meeting of AERA also is held in conjunction with the National Council of Measurement in Education. During the joint sessions, as well as for each individual meeting, technical and theoretic aspects of the NAEP assessment are addressed, for example, innovative item types from a NAEP field test, evaluation of content validity, methods of evaluating differential item functioning and bias, and scoring of performance items.

Two other SIGs focus on statistical education at the post- secondary level or in higher education: Educational Statisticians (ES) and Professors of Educational Research (PER). The SIG-ES has had an emphasis on the teaching of statistics since its inception in the 1970s. The president of SIG-ES either organizes or designates a session on teaching statistics. Initially the concentration was on how specific statistical topics could or should be taught and on evaluating statistics texts used in education and psychology. More recently the focus has shifted to the learning of statistics and understanding and meeting the needs of the learner, for example, William Mickelson's (University of Idaho) presentation on bridging the gap between students and statistics addressing cognition, affect, and the role of teaching methods. The results of using Cognitive Apprenticeship models in statistics courses (John Willett, Judith Singer, Susan Prion, and Patricia Busk) have been reported at the 1995 annual meeting and cooperative learning groups (Robert Abbott) have been reported at the 1992 annual meeting.

Often members of SIG-ES and SIG-PER will collaborate on sessions to address issues relating to statistical learning. In 1994, one joint session dealt with using computers and computer applications to facilitate instruction and learning of statistics and research design. Sessions in New Orleans (1994), New York (1996), and Chicago (1997) have included multimedia instruction in introductory statistics courses (Gerard Giraud), Internet resources for teaching statistics (J. Laurie Snell and Joan Garfield), and technological advances (John Behrens, Paul Vellman, and Jan de Leeuw).

Frequently a student is treated only as someone to instruct rather than as a learner whose attitudes and affect must be considered. Recent sessions have attempted to correct this deficit: Kathy Green's (University of Denver) research on affective components of attitude and statistics instruction; Mathew Mitchell's (University of San Francisco) research on situational interest in the statistics classroom; Christine DiStefano and Paul Schutz's (University of Georgia) patterns of knowledge, attitude, and strategy use in an instruction to statistics class; and Joe Wisenbaker and Janice Scott's (University of Georgia) modeling aspects of students' attitudes and achievement in introductory statistics courses. Statistical and mathematical anxiety have long been topics of research for SIG-ES and SIG-PER.

Professor David Moore challenged individuals attending the 1997 SIG-ES business meeting with his invited address on Synergy in Statistics Education: Context, Pedagogy, Technology. I am certain that his message is well known to those in ASA's Statistical Education section; his message was welcomed by many attending the address and viewed with skepticism by those who still cling to the old ways of teaching. Professor Moore's talk provided insights into ways that new activities can foster a conceptual understanding of statistics.

SIG-ES welcomes new members from ASA. You do not need to be a member of AERA to join. The dues for one year are $4.00, which means that you will be supporting the work of SIG-ES, receive two newsletters, and the directory of members. For membership and other information, contact:
Gabriella Belli
Virginia Tech
7054 Haycock Road
Room 454
Falls Church, VA 22043-2311
(703)538-8477 The URL for the SIG-ES home page is:

Papers from some of the sessions are available through ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation (AE). The URL address for tracking ERIC-AE papers from the annual meeting is The complete program for the 1997 AERA annual meeting is available as a fully searchable database at

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