SCHEMATYC: Statistical Content Helping to Empower Mathematicians at Two-Year Colleges

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Implementing student projects during a course can be a nice way to have students demonstrate their understanding of the material. Additionally, practice using real data and research questions of particular interest to the students is the best way for students to really understand how they can apply statistics in the real world beyond the scope of the course. Group projects also promote student interaction, which can make life easier for both you the instructor as well as the students themselves. If you choose to assign projects to your students, here are a few brief tips:

• Early in the year, students can work on a first project using data from a published source or the data sets in the Fathom files. Working as a group will add to the students’ experience and lessen the time for grading class presentations. Assigning data projects early in the term helps us to know our students, their interests and strengths. Think of all those posters for Back-to-School Night! And besides, projects are fun for students.

• One word of caution: If students choose to collect their own data, they might be tempted to collect information about people, but keep in mind that this can be tricky and will most likely require approval by an institutional review board to protect the rights of human subjects and keep the research ethical. Students should also be aware of this.

• Projects early in the course might focus more on exploratory and descriptive data analysis, while projects later in the course might focus more on inferential statistics. Because of this, multiple projects might be helpful, and will also allow students to investigate more than one type of data set or research question throughout the span of the course.

• Later in the course, a group project provides the opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have learned. It is best to establish a time-frame so that students do not wait until the last minute and establish clear guidelines for what is expected of them. (See the Groth and Powell article in the NCTM Addendum Series 9-12 Data Analysis (1992) pp. 61-70 for suggestions and guidelines.)

• Therefore, it is important to be checking in with students quite often to keep them on track and to ensure that they realize what from each unit they might be able to apply to their specific analyses.

• When doing projects, give students a chance to critique each other's designs. They can gain a lot from this activity.

• Additionally, by the final unit of the course which revisits experimental design, it might be a good idea for students to go back and ask themselves if they would change the way they designed their studies and collected their data now that they know more about what a good design entails, what kinds of analyses they can do and what problems they may run into.

So before assigning projects to your students (if you opt to do so), it would be a good idea to try a project or two yourself as you progress through the units of this course to get a better idea of what it would entail for students and what you might expect as their instructor.

Finally, please send us any examples of interesting projects and data sets you may have in mind or that you may have encountered in your teaching as we would love to share these with the community.