I was fortunate enough to be selected to give a presentation on service-learning in statistics as part of the “Best Practices” evening of the AP Statistics exam reading in Kansas City. In case you are unfamiliar with the event I encourage you to check out “Best Practices” presentations from prior years over at APStatsMonkey (even if you are familiar with the event I still encourage you to check out these great resources and consider how you might implement some of those ideas in your own classroom).
Below you will find the PowerPoint that accompanied my short and sweet 5 minute presentation (click on the image below to access the PowerPoint). Due to time constraints, the meat of the information can be found in the resource documents that I have also included below.
The main question I aim to address is this: what is the best resource that a teacher can introduce into his/her statistics classroom to help students make meaningful connections between course material and the true value of statistics?
I don’t think it is technology (be that calculators, iPhone apps, online applets, or statistical software packages) which is often discussed as a teaching aid in statistics. I don’t even think that is integrating current articles and published studies into classroom discussion.
Don’t get me wrong, both technology and current events can be powerful pedagogical tools and there certainly is a place for them in the classroom. As a teacher who regularly uses technology and “real-life” articles in my lessons, I would like to submit to you that there is actually something else, something better, that when used well can really cement the value of statistics in the hearts and minds of students. That something: service-learning. As it turns out, I think the best resource that you can introduce into a statistics classroom is to actually get the students out of the classroom and into the local community.
Why I think service-learning is an effective vehicle for communicating the significance and value of statistics to students:
- Students are actually doing statistics.
- There is something about the physical practice of getting outside the classroom to collect and analyze data that implants an appreciation for the processes of statistics into students.
- Students are actually doing statistics in an unfamiliar/uncomfortable (read: human) way.
- In service-learning there is interaction with actual human beings. The data on the paper now has a face and the analysis becomes a little messier and less clinical. I find this tends to stretch students out of their comfort zone in a good way. It also encourages their focus to shift from individualistic outcomes (such as what grade they might receive) to more altruistic aims of education.
- Students are actually doing statistics in an unfamiliar/uncomfortable (read: human) way and they (as well as the community) are experiencing firsthand the fruits of their labor.
- I require students to complete their project by giving an oral presentation to the service agency. Interpreting confidence intervals/levels, p-values, and significance levels becomes so much more meaningful to students when they have to explain these concepts to a service-agency and build connections for the agency as to what to do with this information practically moving forward.
Check out the presentation and the resource documents for more information. Always feel free to contact me through this site if you have any further questions or want to discuss the topic in more detail.
This is not the first time that I have written about (or presented at a conference) on the topic of service-learning. In addition to the resources that you will find below, feel free to check out some of the prior posts on service learning:
- Serving through Statistics: the first (and largest) service project that I implemented complete with video summaries and interview with students.
- CAMT 2012 Presentation: Presentation I gave at the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching based on the first statistics service-learning project mentioned above.
- Geometry and the Homeless: the first service-learning project I did with my geometry students. An updated version from this last school year should find its way onto the site by mid summer.
- I will be working this summer on an independent study of service-learning in math education for my doctoral coursework. The end goal of the course is to have produce an extensive literature review of the resources currently available on the topic. I plan to share that information here by the end of this summer.