Barry McNamara  |   Published July 25, 2016

College hosts ROSA workshop

Bond, scholars from around nation to discuss attitudes about statistics
Statistics are available on virtually any topic, and Monmouth College mathematics and computer science professor Marjorie Bond has been teaching about many of them since she joined the faculty in 1996.

Bond is particularly interested in statistics about attitudes toward statistics, and she is hosting a July 29-31 workshop on campus for others of a like mind.

Titled “Research on Statistics Attitudes,” the ROSA workshop will bring 10 statistical scholars to Monmouth – many of them college or university professors. They will be joined by Bond, associate professor of political economy and commerce Wendi Bolon, post-baccalaureate fellow Madison Brakel ’16 and Jad Freyha, a senior computer science major from Syria. Six of the workshop attendees and Bond will then head to Chicago on July 31 for the start of the Joint Statistical Meetings, the largest gathering of statisticians held in North America.

“Attitudes toward statistics research has been circling me for a while before I actually started working on it,” said Bond, who received her bachelors and master’s degree from the University of New Mexico. As a graduate student, she taught one of the introductory statistics courses which was used in the development of the Survey of Attitudes Toward Statistics (SATS).

“I explored doing statistics attitude research as a possible dissertation topic, but went a different direction,” she said. “It was later at Monmouth that I got in touch with Candace Schau, the developer of the SATS. I’ve been working on attitudes ever since.”

Schau and Bond collected SATS data nationwide from the Fall 2007 to Spring 2010. Several researchers published articles based on this data base, and the Statistics Education Research Journal published a special issue on statistics attitudes in its November 2012 issue.

“The work that I did on students’ perception of statistics was published in that issue,” said Bond. “It is unfortunate that Candace can’t join us for the workshop due to health reasons. She would love to be here.”

Why is it important to study those attitudes?

“We’re seeing student attitudes toward statistics staying the same or dropping,” Bond said.

That finding leads to several questions.

“We do the survey at the beginning and end of a semester,” Bond said. ““Maybe the attitudes that we are measuring don’t change in that amount of time. Do we need to look at a larger time frame? What attitude components do we have an effect on? Which attitudes have an effect on cognitive learning? What are the teacher characteristics that have a positive effect on attitudes? ”

Bond said the bottom line is: “We want our students to be statistically educated citizens. The bad rap that statistics gets affects attitudes. People with bad attitudes towards statistics won’t use statistics.”
Bond was part of a Monmouth reading group last year with faculty from other disciplines, studying the book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.

“Many of us believe that the strongest influence on statistics attitudes is the teacher, so the workshop participants will be given information that I studied with my colleagues at Monmouth College,” she said.
The workshop group will create several pilot attitude instruments for students and instructors as well as creating plans to address the four research priorities listed in a report from the American Statistical Association about the assessment of teaching college-level statistics.

“This isn’t a sit and watch presentations workshop,” Bond said. “Everyone is going to be working. One group will be analyzing data, another will be delving into current attitude research in education and psychology, while the last group will be working on the instruments. But there is always the chance that we will jettison our plans about how we think that people will work together after listening to how the participants want to work together. Being a teacher for so long, I have learned how to be flexible in the classroom and adjust to how the students – or participants in this case – need to work.”

Bond said the pilot instruments will need to be tested during the next two academic years and hopes to have the final instruments ready to launch in 2018.

Bond is thrilled to welcome the contingent of statistics scholars to campus. She hopes that current Monmouth students and prospective students will become involved in the months to follow.

“I’m always eager to welcome student researchers,” she said. “This research is accessible to them.”
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