Bringing the islands to schools: improving student attitudes towards statistics

Huynh, M 2018, Bringing the islands to schools: improving student attitudes towards statistics, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Science, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Bringing the islands to schools: improving student attitudes towards statistics
Author(s) Huynh, M
Year 2018
Abstract Australia’s continuing decline in its number of statistics graduates has been related to students’ negative attitudes and experiences within their classrooms. Student attitudes are often recognised as important determinants for course performance, as well as interest and participation in higher education. Therefore, providing students with an enriching classroom experience, especially within the early stages of their education, is essential for improving and maintaining students’ attitudes towards statistics.

This dissertation focuses on the Islands, an online simulation of a human population, and how its implementation within the classroom can affect student’s attitudes, career prospects, and perceived competency towards statistics. The Islands was developed for a tertiary setting, so its utilisation within high schools was novel and yet to be evaluated. Three studies were carried out to investigate the Islands within the secondary school context, with each following the standard pre-post measurement-intervention protocol. Each study built upon the findings of the previous by improving upon their limitations and optimising the research design. Across these three studies there were fifteen partnered schools, and over 900 student participants.

The results of the three studies varied substantially. Whilst the first study saw significant improvements across all domains, the second study only saw improvements for attitudes, with career prospects remaining stable and perceived competency decreasing. The third study, which was considered the most ecologically rigorous (with regards to the research design) saw significant declines across all three domains. When linked with the student’s qualitative feedback, these results revealed an important message that statistics researchers have been advocating for years: teachers require more support and opportunities for professional training.

The Islands provides students with an opportunity to conduct realistic data driven experiments, which was expected to enrich their classroom experience and improve their attitudes towards statistics. Students were expected to find the Islands activities motivating due to the self-exploratory and realistic nature of the program. By being actively involved in the data collection process, students can relate to the data because they collected it (as opposed to simply being provided a dataset). Such an approach better emulates real world applications. The results of this research suggests that unless the instructor is adequately trained to deliver the content, students’ attitudes towards statistics are highly resistant to change, and in the worst case scenario, may decline. Given the prior success of the Island within tertiary environments, further research investigating the challenges associated with implementation at the secondary level, in particular with how best to prepare and train teachers, is strongly encouraged.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Science
Subjects Secondary Education
Applied Statistics
Keyword(s) Statistics education
The Islands
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Created: Fri, 06 Jul 2018, 13:35:13 EST by Denise Paciocco
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