Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 5, Number 1 (Winter 1999)
The International Study Group for Research on Learning Probability and Statistics is offering the first in a series of International Research Forums, to be held in Israel in July 1999. Sponsored by the Weizmann Institute of Science and the University of Minnesota, this forum offers an opportunity for a small number of researchers from around the world to meet for a few days to share their work, discuss important issues, and initiate collaborative projects. The topic of the first forum will be Statistical Reasoning, Thinking, and Literacy. One outcome of the forum will be the publication of a monograph summarizing the work presented, discussions conducted, and issues emerging from this gathering. Background Research into statistical education has been growing and receiving increased attention in the past twenty years, which is illustrated by the large number of the papers presented at international conferences, articles published in statistics and educational journals, and even entire books devoted to a particular aspect of statistical education.
The five International Conferences on Teaching Statistics (ICOTS), held every four years, beginning in 1982, helped to progressively link an informal research network of people interested in carrying out research on the teaching and learning of statistics at all age levels. It was at ICOTS I in 1982 that the International Study Group for Research on Learning Probability and Statistics was formed.
The goal of the new study group was to encourage research in statistical education, promote the exchange of information between members, develop instruments by which concepts about probability and statistics could be assessed, and in general, improve the teaching and interpretation of probability and statistics by dissemination of research findings.
Currently, the chair of the study group (Carmen Batanero, University of Granada, Spain) produces an electronic newsletter every three months to serve as a link between members and to provide information useful to research. It contains summaries of research papers written by members, information about members, summaries of recent dissertations, and other publications of interest, information concerning recent and forthcoming conferences, and Internet resources of interest. There are currently over 200 members representing close to 40 different countries.
The only times members have been able to meet and share their work has been at the ICOTS conferences, every four years. However, in 1996, the IASE decided to focus a round table conference on research, and 24 members of the international research community had an opportunity to meet, share and discuss their work, and focus on the important topic of research on the role of technology in teaching and learning statistics. This meeting formed new collaborations, produced a high-quality, edited volume of papers (which is now on the web), and helped identify important issues and needed areas of research. This kind of productivity is only possible when small numbers of people meet together for several days to discuss research details in depth. Unfortunately, the ICOTS meetings do not allow this type of intense and in-depth discussion, allowing only for formal presentations of papers followed by general audience discussion.
At the most recent meeting of ICOTS, held in June 1998 in Singapore, several papers focused on the related topics of Statistical Reasoning, Statistical Thinking, and Statistical Literacy. There seemed to be an overlap among the topics, yet important distinctions between them, none of which have as yet been addressed. It became apparent that when statistics educators or researchers talk about or assess statistical reasoning, thinking, or literacy, they may all be using different definitions and understandings of these cognitive processes. The similarities and differences among these processes are important to consider when formulating learning goals for students, designing instructional activities, and evaluating learning by using appropriate assessment instruments. In addition, in recent years, we have seen an increasing research emphasis on the socially and culturally situated nature of mathematical (statistical) activity. It suggests the importance of participation in the statistical practices established by the classroom community, in scaffolding the statistical reasoning processes of the individual student.
A small, focused conference consisting of researchers interested in these topics appears to be an important next step in clarifying the issues, connecting researchers and their studies, and generating some common definitions, goals, and assessment procedures. Some of the questions to be discussed in the forum are:
Dani Ben-Zvi (Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel) and Joan Garfield (University of Minnesota, USA) are co-chairs of the International Research Forum. Assisted by Carmen Batanero (University of Granada, Spain, Chair of the International Study Group for Research on Learning Probability and Statistics) and an advisory committee, they will organize the program, invite participants, and edit the research monograph.
The format of the Research Forum is for 12-15 participants to meet together for three two-hour sessions each day for three days, where most of the sessions will focus on the viewing and discussing of videotapes of students, illustrating statistical reasoning or thinking processes. Background papers by participants and others will be collected and distributed prior to the forum, including (1) theories of statistical thinking, reasoning and literacy, (2) details on recent research on these topics, and (3) descriptive information on the context of the videos to be viewed.
All sessions will be held at Kibbutz Be’eri, which is in the southern part of Israel. Participants will arrive on Sunday, July 18. On that day there will be an orientation to the Kibbutz and a welcome reception. Meetings will take place on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Thursday, there will be a visit and tour of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, followed by a reception there. On Friday, participants may leave the Kibbutz to tour or travel to PME (Psychology in Mathematics Education). Participants will need to pay for their own travel to the Research Forum as well as their housing and meals at Kibbutz Be’eri. The estimated cost to participants for housing and meals at the Kibbutz will be about US$60 per day.
The Research Forum organizers invite anyone interested in participating in this forum to contact them as soon as possible. Initial expressions of interest are invited as well as brief descriptions of relevant work to be shared at the forum.
Dani Ben-Zvi, at firstname.lastname@example.org and Joan Garfield, at email@example.com