# Statistical Literacy An Online Course at Capella University

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6 other course that captures the combination of critical thinking and statistical awareness that is so practical to a wide audience of general education learners. This difference is obvious in the student evaluation scores (Table 1). While Statistical Literacy is not a replacement for traditional statistics, it does offer a viable alternative for fulfilling a quantitative reasoning requirement in general education. Statistical Literacy is more than just math. MAT 2050 has ancillary benefits besides those associated with the critical evaluation of statistics presented as evidence in news stories. With a focus on and the use of real-world news articles, the retrieval of documents through the online library introduces these learners to the world of bibliographic searches and the data literacy skills important for those living in today s electronic world. In addition, the integration of article evaluations with writing is an important opportunity to develop multiple skills for the general education learner. This connection between quantitative reasoning skills and writing across the curriculum is one of the key components of a current FIPSE grant at Carleton College in Northfield, MN 3. Statistical Literacy requires hypothetical thinking. One of the most difficult skills for learners to master in MAT 2050 is hypothetical thinking. In the study of articles requiring critical evaluation, one must not only evaluate the given information but also consider hypothetical scenarios for what is not described. This ability to think beyond the information given in the context of the news article is not something commonly tested in other college courses even though it is a critical skill necessary in today s data rich world. Statistical Literacy is not easy. As mentioned previously, some learners mistakenly believe that the lack of focus on formulaic computations in this course somehow makes it easier than other math or statistics courses. What learners fail to realize is that many of them have not had much opportunity to test or develop their critical and hypothetical thinking skills. In the evaluation of news articles, a learner may have to interpret and analyze what is not in the text as much as what is actually stated. This analysis of what is not in a news story and what that might mean is very different territory for many undergraduate students who have been trained to look only at the information presented in textbooks and other sources. Statistical Literacy is well suited online. As the learner evaluation data shows, some subjects like traditional math and statistics courses tend to struggle with the online format, MAT 2050 is very well suited to the online environment. With the availability of a suitable text, appropriate news articles and a structured course design, learners can pursue the content at their own pace with the flexibility of the internet. The use of the asynchronous discussion boards allows for frequent interaction with the instructor and fellow classmates while allowing each student to form their skills through repeated article evaluations. Statistical Literacy is valued. With all of the course materials and learning activities centered on the evaluation of articles from the news media, learners find it easy to see the value in what they are learning. By changing their perspective on the role and importance of statistics in the world around them, nearly all of the learners express a greater appreciation for the statistical literacy skills learned in the course. Compared to other traditional introductory statistic courses, this is a major accomplishment. Previous research (Schau, 2003) has demonstrated a decrease in student appreciation for statistics following the completion of a traditional introductory statistics course. While no empirical research has been completed, I believe that learners completing MAT 2050 would demonstrate an increased perception of value in statistics from the beginning to the end of the course. This perceived value is also shown in Table 1 where MAT 2050 ranked 5 th among all 15 general education courses in promoting relevant and useful skill development Comparatively, PHI 1000 (Intro Philosophy) ranked 11 th on this same question. Thus, while PHI 1000 challenged learners to think critically (1 st place rank), they did not see the relevant and practical applications which are evident to students of Statistical Literacy. MAT 2050 stimulated learners to think critically and hypothetically and also provided a relevant context for authentic learning Cautions and Pitfalls After developing and teaching MAT 2050 as an online course in statistical literacy, I have observed and noted a number of issues which may be of value to others in developing a similar course. The need for a clear and concise published textbook on the subject of Statistical Literacy is evident. Current versions of the course are offered using a draft copy of Schield s Statistical Literacy textbook. While this has been functional, the text could use some additional refinement for use in teaching online. As seen in Table 1, the student evaluation of the learning materials received the lowest rank comparison for all the questions. While the average score of 4.38 on a 5 point scale is not unfavorable, there is still room for improvement on a tenth place ranking. 3 For more details, see 2249

8 view, Sept American Association of Colleges & Universities. 2004SchieldAACU.pdf Schield, Milo (2005). Statistical Literacy: The Story Behind the Statistics. Draft of textbook. Utts, Jessica (1999). Seeing Through Statistics. Duxbury Press 2251

9 APPENDIX 1: Statistical Literacy Argument Analysis Form (Fall, 2005) 1. (2 pts) What is the point or Target of the news story? 2. (2 pts) State the association given in the article that supports the point of the argument. (Depending on the story this can be the same as item #1 above.) 3. (2 pts) State how the factors in the association are measured. 4. (2 pts) Is the study involved an experiment or an observational study? Explain your reasoning. 5. (2 pts) Is the study involved cross-sectional or longitudinal? Explain your reasoning. 6. (2 pt) Is the study a controlled study? Explain your reasoning. 10. (5 pts) Identify a possible confounder for the observed relationship not accounted for in the story. Using the triangle diagram found below, explain how each alternate explanation is linked with both predictor and outcome. Confounder / Alternate Explanation #1: Identify Box A: Identify Box B: Identify Box C: Explain how the Alternate Explanation is linked with both the predictor and outcome: (5 pts) Identify a second possible confounder for the observed relationship not accounted for in the story. Using the triangle diagram found below, explain how each alternate explanation is linked with both predictor and outcome. Confounder / Alternate Explanation #2: 7. (1 pt) If there are groups, are the subjects randomly assigned to the groups? 8. (4 pts) Identify a possible mechanism that would explain the association as causal. Explain how the mechanism helps explain the association shown in the triangle diagram. Be sure to identify what items should appear in boxes A, B and C in the diagram.. Box A: Box B: Box C: Explain mechanism: 9. (2 pts) Name all the factors taken into account in this story (if any). Identify Box A: Identify Box B: Identify Box C: Explain how the Alternate Explanation is linked with both the predictor and outcome: Answer the next three questions with relation to the Take CARE methodology, 12. (2 pts) Considering what is stated or not stated in the article, comment on the potential for Error or Bias to influence the stated association or statistic? 13. (2 pts) Considering what is stated or not stated in the article, comment on the potential for Randomness to influence the stated association or statistic 14. (2 pts) Considering what is stated or not stated in the article, comment on the potential for Assembly to influence the stated association or statistic? 2252

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