Why Johnny Can’t See “The Big Picture of Statistics” and What We Can Do About It

By Rebecca L. Pierce (Ball State University) & Matthew T. Brenneman (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University)


Publication of the GAISE report and the approaches it has inspired have led to improvements in student learning. But how can we further improve the introductory statistics curriculum? One area might be a long-standing problem in statistics education: teaching the process of inference. In fact, this goal is the first guideline in GAISE, “to teach statistics as an investigative process of problem-solving and decision-making.” But how well are we teaching the process of inference? A study we present indicates students are learning the steps but not the logic of the inferential process.
These findings led us to a second question: how can we improve how we teach the logic of inference? We propose a new approach called QED (“Question, Explain, Do”). Unlike other methods (such as “Tell, Show, Do” by DeVeaux and Velleman or the “practicing connections framework”), QED is based on Cobb’s recommendation to “put the logic of inference at the center of our curriculum.” It is an organizational principle that centers the entire curriculum about the logic of inference by redefining statistical reasoning, thinking, and literacy. We explain the principle underlying QED and show how we use QED to help students really see “The Big Picture of Statistics.”