Barry McNamara  |   Published January 25, 2021

Bond’s Team Awarded NSF Grant

Along with other researchers, Monmouth math professor receives $600,000 National Science Foundation grant to study attitudes toward statistics, data science.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – A Monmouth College professor is part of a national study that seeks to better understand student attitudes toward learning about statistics and data science.

MARJORIE BOND: Part of seven-member research team that's received $600,000 grant from Nationa... MARJORIE BOND: Part of seven-member research team that's received $600,000 grant from National Science Foundation.Marjorie Bond is a member of a seven-researcher team that has received a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for Motivational Attitudes in Statistics and Data Science Education Research.

The group aims to gauge motivational attitudes toward statistics in students and instructors, as well as understand environmental characteristics and other elements that influence student learning.

The research group expects that its results will be brought back to teacher education as best practices. Because data science – which Monmouth launched as an academic major in 2019 – is a new field of study related to statistics, the group will produce the first instruments written to study that discipline.

Last spring, Bond used her sabbatical to study data science. She led a section of the College’s introductory data science course last fall and is doing so again during the spring semester.

“Data science education research is in its infancy with minimal research on attitudes and no validated measurement instruments,” Bond and her colleagues note in the proposal. “Quality instruments to measure student attitudes are priorities in both the statistics education and data science education communities.”

The three-year “Developing Validated Instruments to Measure Student/Faculty Attitudes in Undergraduate Statistics and Data Science Education” grant was written by Bond along with researchers from Villanova University, Winona (Minn.) State University, Mount Saint Vincent University in Canada and California State University, Monterey Bay. Working alongside the researchers are Bond’s faculty colleague at Monmouth, Wendine Bolon, and a professor from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.

Bond said that work in Monmouth’s Summer Opportunity for Intellectual Activity program – known as SOFIA – allowed students to adapt the research tool Survey of Attitudes Towards Statistics (SATS) to study attitudes toward disciplines other than statistics. When the group’s results “didn’t make sense,” she realized they needed another instrument to measure attitudes toward statistics instead of the SATS.

“We saw similar patterns – no change in attitudes from pre-course to post-course,” said Bond, a professor in Monmouth’s Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. “We were looking at other science disciplines like biology and psychology and were not seeing changes in attitudes. This didn’t make sense. It was at that point that I realized that the SATS wasn’t working.”

While a graduate student at the University of New Mexico in the early 1990s, one of Bond’s statistics classes was used in the development of the SATS, but it wasn’t until 2004 that Bond and SATS creator Candace Schau began their collaboration.

“I know that the instruments created through this grant will make a difference because their foundation is in education theory, and they will be valid.” Marjorie Bond 

“Teaching at a place like Monmouth without the pressure to publish has allowed me to do my research,” said Bond. “If you look at my early research in statistics education, I kept floating from one subject to another, but once Candace and I came together again, my research area crystallized. I expected that we would revise the SATS at some point, but I did not foresee that a brand-new instrument would be needed. However, after looking at all the accumulated data, it just became clear that a new instrument needed to be created from scratch.”

After this realization, she applied for and received a $10,000 grant from the American Statistics Association in 2016. The Research on Statistics Attitudes (ROSA) grant paid for three workshops that led to the current research group as well as three proposals to NSF, with the last proposal being funded.

Bond said members in her research group have a diverse set of skills and experiences.

“That makes us perfect for creating these instruments,” she said. “We have two researchers who recently received their doctoral degrees and have experience creating instruments. Then we have researchers in the middle of their careers who have worked with the SATS and/or taught statistics and data science courses. And then we have me, who is heading toward the end of her career with the knowledge and passion for the research. I’ve collected a national sample of SATS data from students and instructors when it was just Candace and me in the late 2000s.”

Bond is confident that the results of her group’s research “will make a difference.”

“I know that the instruments created through this grant will make a difference because their foundation is in education theory, and they will be valid,” she said. “Additionally, it is my belief that they can be adapted to other disciplines and will be used to influence teacher education in disciplines besides statistics and data science.”

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