Tools for Teaching and Assessing

Joan Garfield, Robert delMas
University of Minnesota

and Beth Chance
University of the Pacific

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 5, Number 2 (Summer 1999)

This is a project funded by the National Science Foundation to develop and disseminate materials that help students learn core concepts underlying statistical inference. We have created instructional modules that use simulation software to help students develop abstract concepts such as sampling distribution, confidence interval, p-values, and power. Based on our previous research, we based the modules on a model of conceptual change where students first make predictions and then test them using the simulation software. These modules also include assessment instruments to assess prerequisite conceptual knowledge and instruments to assess understanding of the statistical concepts underlying statistical inference.

Our project website ( contains materials for four instructional units (sampling distributions, confidence intervals, p-values, and power) as well as a variety of papers describing the development and evaluation of these materials. We invite you to browse our site, review our materials, and send us your feedback.

Each instructional unit consists of the following components:

1. A description of students' knowledge and reasoning related to the topic, including prerequisite knowledge students need before beginning the simulation activity, common misconceptions that students may have when reasoning about statistical concepts related to the topic, and desired student outcomes in terms of what they should understand about the topic and how they should be able to apply this knowledge.

2. A pretest based on the prerequisite knowledge for a topic. The pretest consists of a set of items that may be used for diagnostic purposes. The instructor may administer all or some of these items before beginning the simulation activity to determine if students have misunderstandings that may be corrected prior to the activity.

3. An activity that is based on the simulation software. A lab activity is provided that introduces the students to the software and guides their learning of important concepts. This activity asks students to make predictions and to test them with the software. In this way, students confront specific misconceptions and construct an understanding of statistical concepts.

4. A posttest to evaluate students' understanding of key concepts and their ability to use these concepts in solving statistical problems. The posttest consists of a variety of items designed to assess students' learning after completing the unit. Most items are multiple choice or matching format for easier scoring. The instructor can include some or all of these items in a quiz or final exam.

5. An Apple Macintosh version of the software is available for the instructional activity. A Microsoft Windows version of the software should be available during the summer of 1999.

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