Statistics Education Presentations at the International Statistics Institute (ISI) Biennial Session in Helsinki and a Preview of Future Activities

Carol Joyce Blumberg
Winona State University

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 6, Number 1 (Winter 2000)

As its name indicates the ISI conference is held every two years. The session in Helsinki was the third ISI session that I have attended since 1993. It has been amazing to see the growth in the number of ISI sessions concerning statistics education over these last six years. This year, there were seven Invited Paper Meetings organized directly by the International Association for Statistical Education (IASE), which is the statistics education arm of ISI. Besides these Invited Paper Meetings there were also several other invited sessions relevant to statistics education. In addition, there were five contributed paper sessions with a focus on statistics education. The short summaries of the Invited Paper Meetings organized by IASE given below are based on summaries prepared by the Session organizers or their designee. The complete summaries are available in the 1999 IASE Review newsletter which can be found at I wish to thank Brian Phillips, President of IASE, for allowing me to use these summaries when preparing this article. Brian and the writers of the complete summaries should be considered as co-authors of this article. This article will end with a preview of IASE activities over the next few years and information on how to join IASE.

Complete copies of the papers summarized here, plus some of the discussants' remarks and almost all of the other invited and contributed papers presented at the Biennial Session, can be found at

IPM 58. Statistical education and significance tests controversy.
Organizer: Carmen Batanero (Spain). The first paper in this session was Teaching Hypothesis Testing. Can it Still be Useful? by Henrik Dahl (Norway). He discussed the teaching of key concepts. He also described problems in teaching these concepts and suggested some meaningful examples that can help students to understand the basic concepts behind statistical tests. The second paper was Some Empirical Evidence on Learning Difficulties about Testing Hypotheses by Angustias Vallecillos (Spain). She presented a survey of the experimental research on this topic, as well as a summary of the results in her own comprehensive assessment of undergraduates' learning difficulties concerning statistical tests. She also pointed out some difficulties and errors that underlie the problems described and that should be taken into account to improve the teaching and learning of the topics. Students' conceptions about key concepts in statistical tests were also described. The third paper was Beyond the Significance Test Controversy: Prime Time for Bayes? by Bruno Lecoutre (France). To solve the paradoxical situation around statistical tests, he suggested that a positive agreement on the procedures that bypass the common misuses of statistical tests is needed. He proposed that the Bayesian philosophy should become an attractive challenge for the scientists, applied statisticians and statistics instructors of the 21st century.

IPM 59. Teaching and training multivariate data-analysis.
Organizer: Helena Bacelar Nicolau (Portugal). The first paper in this session was Introduction à la Classification en Sciences Humaines" by Georges Le Calvé (France) who described his approach to teaching an introductory course on cluster analysis for students in the social and behavioral sciences. Despite their weak background in mathematics, these students can easily go from analyzing data and learning from real examples to being able to understand what a cluster is and the abstract notion of distance. The second paper was Discussion, Debate, and Disagreement: Teaching Multiple Regression by Case Discussion by Peter G. Bryant (USA). He reported his recent experiences in teaching courses in statistics, and in particular on multiple regression, in business schools. He is using the classroom time for debate and discussion rather than lecture. The third paper was Teaching Multivariate Data Analysis in the Fields of Biology and Ecology by Hans-Peter Baeumer (Germany). He discussed the relevant role of and techniques for the teaching of multivariate data analysis in these areas. An applications-oriented approach that teaches students how to efficiently collect experimental data as well as how to reliably analyze multivariate data obtained in laboratory and field experiments was described. The last paper was Some Remarks in Teaching the Correlation Coefficient by Kameo Matusita (Japan). He discussed several suitable counter-examples and how these lead to some important matters that need to be attended to when teaching correlation. Important mistakes that can arise when interpreting correlation coefficients, graphical representations, and a simulated comparative study between the affinity coefficient and the correlation coefficient were also discussed.

IPM 60. Statistical education using flexible learning approaches.
Organizer: Agostino Di Ciaccio (Italy). The first paper was Teaching Statistics with Internet: A Survey of Available Resources and the St@tNet Project by Gilbert Saporta (France). Although an oral presentation was not given a complete written paper is still available at the proceedings web address given above. The second paper was Why do Students Find Statistics so Difficult? by James B. Ramsay (USA). He maintained that a major problem in learning statistics is that statistics and probability theory are essentially acausal. Students find it more difficult to understand statistics than other disciplines that are inherently casual. Implications for the teaching of statistics together with practical suggestions for their implementation were also discussed. The third paper was Multimedia Statistical Labs & Toolkit (TILE ) by Deborah Nolan and Duncan Temple Lang (USA). The TILE project consists of two parts: statistics labs that are designed to teach students how to think critically (and statistically) about quantitative problems that are real and important to them; a toolkit, which provides a flexible and extendible environment where instructors can develop portable teaching applications. Exercises, simulations, problem solving and even animated adventures and puzzles are used to involve the students.

IPM 61. Statistical education for life.
Organizer: Brian Phillips (Australia). The first paper Justice by the Numbers: Educating Judicial Decision Makers by Mary Gray and Nawar Al-Shara (USA) was presented by Hasan Hamdan. In the paper they showed how the testimony of statistical experts has become increasingly important in many legal situations and that judges often have great discretion in deciding what evidence can be admitted and ultimately in the validity and weight given to such evidence. They concluded that although there is no specific code of ethics binding statisticians, general principles of good teaching would preclude the complex and muddled presentations that too often appear. It is the role of the statistical expert to convince the finders-of-fact that the evidence can be relied upon. The second paper was Official Statistics and the Outside World by Vincenzo Lo Moro (Italy). He discussed the issue of the increasing demand for official statistics from National Statistical Institutes and the satisfaction of the users in the workplace with the information and services they receive. The paper aimed at suggesting an evolutionary model for the statistical education that is required by the increased consumption of official statistics. Strategies to reduce the disappointment of users of statistics were also discussed. The third paper was Childhood Leukemia -- Communicating with a Worried Public by Amanda Burls (UK). This paper describes a case-history of a successful attempt by a local health authority in the United Kingdom to deal with high levels of public anxiety about a cluster of childhood leukemia in Northampton by a risk communication strategy. This involved working with the community and media and producing a written report for parents and later working with the BBC to produce a program on disease clusters.

IPM 62. Issues involved in the assessment and evaluation of student learning of statistics.
Organizer: Joan Garfield (USA) Reported by: Joe Wisenbaker (USA). The first paper was How to Assess Large Groups with the Minimal Amount of Resources but Preserving Quality by Susan Starkings (UK). The advantages and disadvantages of three different approaches to assessing student learning in the context of large classes: multiple-choice exams, group work and in-class presentations were viewed from the perspectives of diagnostic, formative and summative assessment. Attention was devoted to the level of effort and preparation required on the part of the instructor, the depth of knowledge that can be ascertained, and difficulties posed for the student. The second paper was A Model of Classroom Assessment in Action: Using Assessments to Improve Student Learning and Statistical Reasoning by Beth Chance, Joan Garfield and Robert delMas (USA). It provided an in-depth examination of an on-going study of the effectiveness of a computer simulation activity focused on constructing and visualizing the concept of sampling distributions. The perspective on assessment that guided their work was directed toward the long-term improvement of their computer program and a search for critical features that might serve to enhance students' understanding as assessed through graphics-based test items. The third paper was Assessment in Statistics Using the Personal Computer by Giuseppe Cicchitelli, Francesco Bartolucci & Antonio Forcina (Italy). The system described in this paper was developed in an effort to supplement an existing assessment approach relying exclusively on oral examinations. The testing model employed is a large item bank with individual items calibrated with respect to item discrimination and difficulty and permits the selection of more probing questions in context.

IPM 63. Visualization as an educational tool.
Organizer: Larry Weldon (Canada). The first paper was Graphical Excellence -- The Importance of Sound Principles and Practices for Effective Communication by Thomas Bradstreet (USA). He emphasized that statistics education needs to stress graphical communication more seriously than in the past, since graphics are no longer merely a frill to supplement numerical results but rather a basic form of quantitative communication. The second paper was Emphasizing Visualization and Activities in Teaching Introductory Statistics by Interactive Multimedia by Hans-Joachim Mittag (Germany). The paper discussed his multi-media statistical education computer package and the pedagogical principles underlying it. He showed how to combine sound, real data sets, pictures and graphics with optional text buttons to provide students with diverse preparation information at the appropriate level. The third paper was Visualization for Teaching All Steps of Data-Based Scientific Research by Clovis Peres (Brazil). He proposed that an additional emphasis on the scientific method, with its circular pattern of objective ---> data ---> conclusion ---> reconsideration of objective, would help students to bridge the gap between their technical learning and the needs of the scientific world.

IPM 42. Statistical training of people working in and with official statistics.
Organizers: Carol Joyce Blumberg (USA) and René H. M. Smulders (The Netherlands. The first paper was The Dissemination of Statistical Literacy Among Citizens and Public Administration Directors by Luigi Biggeri and Alberto Zuliani (Italy). They examined the statistical literacy needs of various users and recipients including policy makers in both the public and private sectors, as well as among the mass media and teachers at the primary and secondary levels. The paper also contained a description of literacy activities that have occurred in Italy including a national conference in 1997, a "Census of Children" to be carried out in 1999 to 2001, seminars for journalists and various public administrators, and the preparation of materials for the public in print, on television, and on the Internet. Further, an introduction to the World Numeracy Programme was given. The second paper was Impact of the Internet on Official Statistics: New Opportunities and Dilemmas for Training by Lea Bregar and Irena Ograjensek (Slovenia). They discussed the Course on European Economic Statistics (CEES) which they have developed in co-operation with TES (Training of European Statisticians) Institute and colleagues at the University of Ljubljana and in Sofia, Bulgaria. This on-line course uses the Internet and hyper-media to help increase the quality and efficiency of users' access to information, flexibility for exploring and using official statistics, and integration of learning experiences and knowledge. The third paper was New and Emerging Demands for Statistical Training in Response to User Needs: Meeting the Human Resource Challenge in the Caribbean by Linda Hewitt (Trinidad). The paper begins with an explanation of how market globalization and the increased use of computers and other technologies have made it vital for the Caribbean (and other developing regions) to produce useful economic, demographic, and social statistics. Yet, at the University level statistics is still not regarded as a priority area and given a status similar to that of Economics, Engineering, the Natural and Medical Sciences or even the Humanities. The paper discussed why this has occurred and talked about some possible first steps for improving the situation.


July 31-August 6, 2000 -- International Congress on Mathematics Education -- Makuhari, Japan. IASE has been involved in the planning of several sessions for ICME-9. Further information on these sessions can be found at Further information on ICME-9 can be found at:

August 7-11, 2000 -- Round Table Conference: Training Researchers in the Use of Statistics -- Tokyo, Japan. This is a conference that can be attended by invitation only. All invitations have already been extended. There will be 25 papers presented. The proceedings of the conference will be made available to the public. Further information is available at

August 22-29, 2001 -- ISI 53 Biennial Session -- Seoul, Korea. IASE will be involved in the organization of 11 Invited Paper Meetings at the ISI Session in Seoul, Korea: 1) Forum: IASE and Statistics Education in Developing Countries 2) Undergraduate Level Statistics Programmes 3) The Future of Statistics Education Research 4) Research on Teaching Statistics at School and University Levels 5) Undergraduate Statistics Education in Non-Statistics Degree Programmes 6) Continuing Statistics Education in the Workplace 7) Postgraduate Training of Statisticians 8) Women's Contributions to Leadership in Statistical Education 9) Technology in Statistics Education 10) The Role of Official Statistics in the University Curriculum and 11) Education and the Internet: Effective Structures . Further information on these IASE sessions (including the organizers) can be found at

Further information on the ISI Biennial Session can be found at

July 6-12, 2002 -- International Conference on Teaching Statistics -- Durban, South Africa. This is the major international conference in Statistics Education that is held every 4 years. Planning for ICOTS-6 is well under way. Details can be found at the ICOTS-6 web site at

As you can see from all of the activities listed above, IASE is very active, despite the fact that it is only 7 years old. It is the only global organization whose main focus is Statistics Education. If you are not already a member of IASE, I would strongly urge you to consider joining IASE. At the present exchange rates, dues are only US $24.00. As part of your membership in IASE you will become a member of an international community of statistics educators. This will entitle you to receive the IASE Review newsletter (devoted exclusively to Statistics Education) and the ISI Newsletter which deals with all areas of Statistics at the international level. Furthermore, you can receive the International Statistical Review journal and Short Book Reviews newsletter as well as registration for conferences organized by the IASE at reduced rates. I have found all of these very helpful in my teaching of statistics courses. For further information about the IASE and for a copy of the IASE Membership form go to the IASE web site at This site also has many links useful to anyone involved in statistics education.

If you cannot find any of the information at the web sites I have given in this article or if you have any other questions about IASE activities, please feel free to contact either Brian Phillips (President of IASE) at School of Mathematical Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, PO Box 218, Hawthorn 3122, AUSTRALIA, Fax: (61) 3-9819-0821, email: or me at Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Winona State University, Winona MN 55987-5838, Phone: (507) 457-5589, Fax: (507) 457-5376, email:

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