Learning to Reason Statistically

Research on Learning to Reason Statistically

The Connections Project Websitehttp://connections.edtech.haifa.ac.il 

My research in this area focuses on the emergence of statistical reasoning of students (grades 4–9, aged 10–15) and the ways it can be promoted. This is a microgentic and longitudinal research program implemented for eight years in the Connections Project (Ben-Zvi et al. 2007). I developed ingenious technology-enhanced scenarios to engage young students in authentic statistical investigations structured around core statistical concepts and the interrelations among them.

In my studies, I explain how students learn to analyze data, make informal statistical inferences, build conceptual understanding of statistics, argue about data, and articulate uncertainty (e.g., Ben-Zvi 2004; Ben-Zvi and Arcavi 2001; Gil and Ben-Zvi 2011; Ben-Zvi et al. 2012). I consider educational practice issues in proposing key elements that are needed to nurture students' statistical reasoning (e.g., Makar, Bakker and Ben-Zvi 2011), a framework for alternative teaching and assessing (Garfield and Ben-Zvi 2005), design principles of statistics learning environments (Ben-Zvi 2011), helping teachers to develop statistical thinking (Pfannkuch and Ben-Zvi 2011), and the role of technological tools in these classes (e.g., Ben-Zvi 2000). These studies are conducted with colleagues and graduate students and use existing powerful innovative visualization tools that are designed to help students develop statistical reasoning by inventing their own ways for organizing authentic data and discussing them to answer their own questions.

The results of these studies are summarized and presented in two books (Ben-Zvi & Garfield 2004; Garfield & Ben-Zvi 2008) and in four Special Issues: Statistical Education Research Journal on Reasoning about Variability (2004 and 2005); Mathematics Thinking and Learning on the Role of Context and Evidence in Informal Inferential Reasoning (2011); and Educational Studies in Mathematics on Learning to Make Informal Statistical Inferences from Samples (forthcoming). These publications are recognized among the cornerstones of the statistics education literature as evidenced by their high citation ranking.

In my future research in this area, I plan to make further theoretical, methodological and practical extensions and refinements, in studies on students’ statistical reasoning focusing on conceptual change and use of language and tools that support learning. In particular, I plan to engage in the following activities:
  1. Developing and testing empirically a theoretical framework for informal inferential reasoning, a fundamental element of statistical thinking. The role of data-based argumentation in these processes will be emphasized (Australian Research Council Grant, 2012–4). This will be done in the context of inquiry-based classes in primary school.
  2. Studying the development of students’ statistical reasoning about other related key statistical concepts (e.g., modeling and sampling), including its psychological, social, pedagogical and epistemological dimensions. In these studies the development of statistical reasoning will be mapped as it occurs in the social context of the classroom.
  3. Focusing on learning difficulties in order to advance our understanding of the challenges in learning and teaching statistics; this study will hopefully inspire improved instructional methods and materials, enhanced design of learning environments and technology, and alternative assessment methods (British Academy grant, 2012–4).