What Statistics Instructors Think Students Should Know

By Paulina Silva (University of California, Irvine)


There are many reasons why students may struggle to engage with statistics, such as lacking requisite math skills (Johnson & Kuennen, 2006; Mulhern & Wylie, 2004, 2006) and having anxiety towards statistics (Birnbaum et al., 2013; Gal & Ginsburg, 1994). However, even when students are able to engage with statistics, they often still struggle with conceptual understanding, (Delmas et al., 2007; Prinz et al., 2018) and applying statistical concepts to solve problems (Broers, 2002). Most of the research to date has focused on reducing statistics anxiety and improving math skills, but relatively little has focused on how to help students deal with the unique conceptual problems presented by statistics. Here, we present results from a survey of 169 statistics instructors, the majority of whom taught at the collegiate level at the time of the survey. This study was designed to explore the perceived relevance of several cognitive skills in learning statistics, such as problem-solving strategies, concept learning, concept structure, and concept application. We hope to use the information from this survey to develop classroom interventions that help students understand statistics by targeting the cognitive skills that instructors view as particularly important for learning statistics.