Embedding and assessing project based statistics

Ellen Marshall


Traditional approaches to learning and teaching in statistics often involves the passive absorption of information through lectures, a focus on mathematical theory and assessments which test mastery of procedures. This often results in students struggling to apply their statistics knowledge in practical and authentic contexts particularly within final year projects and in the workplace. For some time, statistics educational literature has recommended shifting the focus of teaching and assessment from theory to statistical problem solving, application based statistics using real-life scenarios, and effective communication of statistics. This research has led to the production of guidelines for statistics educators from the American Statistical Association.

This paper discusses how educational literature and guidelines have been used to implement changes in the teaching of a first year probability and statistics module for mathematics undergraduates at Sheffield Hallam University. Changing to project based learning with a focus on active learning, effective decision making and communication enabled students to successfully undertake an open group project by the end of their first year. In addition, attendance, engagement and understanding were noticeably improved. The rationale, challenges and benefits to changing the focus of the course and also the teaching style are discussed.


Statistics education, project based learning, active learning, assessment.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.21100/msor.v17i2.979


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