How do the participants feel about learning statistics? Exploring group differences in middle school students' interest

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Scientific claims that anthropogenic activity is causing global warming currently generate much public debate. Although the underlying science is undoubtedly complex, the counterclaims used in the debate often display statistical naivety, for they invariably fail to appreciate simple statistical concepts such as the nature of variation and sampling error. In this increasingly information rich society it is essential that future citizens can critically interact with messages containing statistical elements; they should be statistically literate. The chapter examines the development of this literacy in an Australian middle school context and in particular it examines the development of students interest in this literacy, as interest is a strong predictor of their future re-engagement. Although interest can be evoked through encounters with novel, complex and/or uncertain tasks, it can also occur when teachers of statistics use contexts that closely align with students personal interests. The chapter focuses on the latter approach.The research reported in the chapter explores group differences in middle school students interests. It is based on the responses of 496 students to a 31 item interest inventory developed by the author. Although differences in students responses to items can be analysed on the basis of pre-defined group characteristics, such as gender and age, the chapter explores such differences on the basis of latent group characteristics. More specifically, the mixed Rasch model was applied to these data to identify latent groups of students with similar interests. The analysis suggested the presence of three distinct student sub-populations each with subtle interest differences. An investigation of these differences confirmed the importance of contexts on students interest in statistical literacy. It also highlighted the importance of using multiple contexts in statistics lessons, as some groups of students reported high levels of interest for one context while others reported low levels for the same context.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRole of participants in education research
Subtitle of host publicationEthics, epistemologies, and methods
EditorsWarren Midgley, Patrick Alan Danaher, Margaret Baguley
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780203078389
ISBN (Print)9780415636285
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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