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ASA, MAA Develop Guidelines for Teaching Introductory Statistics Course

1 April 2014 458 views No Comment

Principles targeted to nonstatistics departments

    The ASA and Mathematical Association of America (MAA) have developed recommended qualifications for an instructor teaching a modern introductory statistics course.

    In the joint statement, titled “Qualifications for Teaching an Introductory Statistics Course,” the two groups encourage effective teaching in undergraduate statistical education and offer a series of qualifications and resources that will assist nonstatistics departments at universities and colleges with hiring qualified candidates or training existing instructors in the necessary skill set.

    The statement was developed by the ASA-MAA Joint Committee on Undergraduate Statistics to address the rapidly growing interest in statistics at the undergraduate level—both in introductory classes and in majors—and to recognize that statistics is taught in many departments where sufficient experience teaching statistics may be lacking.

    “The importance of statistical thinking and knowledge is rising across the entire collegiate educational spectrum,” says ASA President Nathaniel Schenker. “To meet this growing demand, more and more colleges and universities are offering introductory statistics courses in nonstatistics departments. These ASA-MAA guidelines will help faculty leaders create the best course to prepare students for using solid statistical reasoning in their chosen career fields.”

    “Mathematics faculty, even those who lack formal training in statistics, are often called upon to teach introductory statistics courses,” says MAA President Robert L. Devaney. “These guidelines offer concrete directions to departments seeking to improve the quality of their statistics courses.”

    Among the qualifications cited by the ASA and MAA are the following:

    • Experience with data and appropriate use of technology to support data analyses
    • Deep knowledge of statistics and appreciation for the differences between statistical thinking and mathematical thinking
    • Understanding the ways statisticians work with real data and approach problems and experiencing the joys of making discoveries using statistical reasoning
    • Mentoring by an experienced statistics instructor for an instructor unfamiliar with the data-driven techniques used in modern introductory statistics courses

    The ASA and MAA further recommend nonstatistics department faculty leaders hire an instructor who has at least a master’s degree with a strong concentration in statistics. However, since this objective often is not possible, the individual hired should have at minimum the equivalent of the following qualifications:

    • Two statistical methods courses, including content knowledge of data-collection methods, study design, and statistical inference
    • Experience with data analysis beyond material taught in the introductory class (e.g., advanced courses, projects, consulting, or research)

    The ASA and MAA also strongly encourage statistics instructors to avail themselves of the many resources provided by the statistics education community, including workshops, minicourses, or conferences on teaching statistics; web resources; and articles exploring the key pedagogical differences between the two fields. For a complete list, download the joint statement.

    The ASA/MAA Joint Committee on Undergraduate Statistics created a new web page of resources for department chairs. Intended for mathematics departments that bear primary responsibility for the teaching of statistics at their institutions, it contains information about qualifications for teaching an introductory statistics course; statistics courses for mathematics majors; statistics majors and minors; and hiring, nurturing, and evaluating statisticians in a mathematics department.

    Questions or comments can be directed to Ron Wasserstein, ASA executive director, at ron@amstat.org or Michael Pearson, MAA executive director, at pearson@maa.org.

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