New NSF Assessment Project

Joan Garfield, Beth Chance, and Bob delMas
University of Minnesota and California Polytechnic State University

Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 9, Number 1 (Winter 2003)

As the number of introductory statistics courses continues to increase, and as more statistics instructors implement educational reform recommendations to improve their courses, there is a strong need for high quality assessment materials to document student learning and to help evaluate the effectiveness of the new "reformed" courses. This is not just true for statistics, but for undergraduate courses in science, mathematics, and engineering.

A few years ago the NSF began a new program, Assessment of Student Achievement in Undergraduate Education (ASA). This program supports the development and dissemination of assessment practices, materials (tools), and measures to guide efforts that improve the effectiveness of courses, curricula, programs of study, and academic institutions in promoting student learning in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.

In August 2002, we received funding from this program to support the development of The Web ARTIST project. ARTIST stands for: Assessment Resource Tools to Improve Statistical Thinking. Our project is now underway as we work toward the following goals:

The ARTIST Web site will include a variety of item formats and types of performance assessments. Our goal is to provide statistics instructors with a centralized resource to help them better evaluate student attainment of particular outcomes, rather than global measures of achievement. Specifically, outcomes to evaluate include statistical literacy (e.g., understanding words and symbols, being able to read and interpret graphs and terms), statistical reasoning (e.g., reasoning with statistical information, using statistics to make predictions or judgment), statistical thinking (e.g., the type of thinking that statisticians use when solving problems that involve data, such as choosing appropriate procedures and checking assumptions).

We are fortunate to have a wonderful and diverse group of advisors who are helping us design the website as well as to collect and evaluate assessment materials. These advisors are Julie Clark, George Cobb, John Holcomb, Carl Lee, Tony Onwuegbuzie, Roxy Peck, Allan Rossman, Deb Rumsey, and Candace Schau.

We are currently collecting assessment materials for our website and soliciting pilot testers for assessment items. If you would like to participate in our project, or have suggestions about what assessment information would be most useful to you as a teacher of statistics, please go to our website ( and select the "Ways to Participate" link. We hope to offer our first mini-course on assessment at the 2004 Joint Mathematics Meetings and plan to offer a summer workshop in 2004 at Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo. For more information, please feel free to contact Joan Garfield at

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