About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 9695-9703
Publication year: 2017
ISBN: 978-84-697-3777-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0834

Conference name: 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 3-5 July, 2017
Location: Barcelona, Spain

SUPPORTING WRITTEN COMMUNICATION SKILLS IN STATISTICS COURSES

B. Tasic, J. Hannah

Ryerson University (CANADA)
Despite shifts in our view of literacy that now makes much greater room for visual and other forms of transmission, written communication continues to be a skill critical to student post-secondary success. Writing is a powerful device for thinking, is a skill that crosses all disciplines, and is instrumental for career aspirations, regardless of degree program and vocation. However, in statistics and other numbers-driven courses it's a skill that is often under-emphasized. Students become adept at formulae and calculations but not always with the writing skills necessary to interpret and convey their underlying meaning. This paper describes a simple methodology to employ in statistics or other quantitative courses that supports the development of disciplinary-specific writing skills in students.

It is clear from a body of genre theory research that these critical writing skills are best taught explicitly within the relevant discipline where norms of practice are distinct and well established. And, it is important that we convey to students in statistics courses that data alone does not tell a story, that we need effective communication to decode the meaning in those data. For these reasons, it is incumbent upon us to find ways to address the challenges of a writing-across-the-curriculum approach and offer students situated, discipline-specific writing instruction.

Our simple methodology towards this goal applied in a quantitative statistics class involves three elements:
• the provision of an in-class writing instruction that engages students with the importance of writing and genre
• the development of an assignment-specific writing rubric to acquaint students with what we mean by excellence in writing
• the provision of ongoing feedback on student writing delivered by Teaching Assistants (TAs) trained in writing pedagogy.

The course included three projects worth 5% of the final grade, each one having two components, a computational, and a written. Two TAs were hired, each one assigned to marking one of the components. The writing-skills TA, had a background in statistics and also trained in writing pedagogy. He was introduced to the class as part of the agenda to amplify to students the message that disciplinary writing skills are important, to provide them with basic instructions on the writing conventions relevant to statistics, give them opportunities to practice these skills in the course projects, and to provide them feedback. The writing-skills TA worked with the professor to develop a simple evaluation rubric to assess students’ writing skills. Thoughtful use of rubrics in this way is an effective, efficient approach to provide the meaningful feedback so essential to student skill development.

From the class total of 104, only 42 students completed all three projects. Both grammar and clarity improved among those 42 students with each project. We see that the average final grade of the 42 students was significantly higher than the average final grade of the 62 students who did not complete all three projects. This observation reinforces the trend of greater student performance with the program. The implementation of this pilot program whose purpose was to improve the written communication skills of students in Business Statistics shows promise. Students that have gone on to take Business Statistics II will be monitored in an on-going initiative to establish this program and improve their written communication skills.
@InProceedings{TASIC2017SUP,
author = {Tasic, B. and Hannah, J.},
title = {SUPPORTING WRITTEN COMMUNICATION SKILLS IN STATISTICS COURSES},
series = {9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN17 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-697-3777-4},
issn = {2340-1117},
doi = {10.21125/edulearn.2017.0834},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2017.0834},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {3-5 July, 2017},
year = {2017},
pages = {9695-9703}}
TY - CONF
AU - B. Tasic AU - J. Hannah
TI - SUPPORTING WRITTEN COMMUNICATION SKILLS IN STATISTICS COURSES
SN - 978-84-697-3777-4/2340-1117
DO - 10.21125/edulearn.2017.0834
PY - 2017
Y1 - 3-5 July, 2017
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 9th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN17 Proceedings
SP - 9695
EP - 9703
ER -
B. Tasic, J. Hannah (2017) SUPPORTING WRITTEN COMMUNICATION SKILLS IN STATISTICS COURSES, EDULEARN17 Proceedings, pp. 9695-9703.
User:
Pass: