Statistics Discipline Assessment 2006-2007


Scope of assessment activities

         ___√__Course-embedded assessment

                     ___√___ Pre- and post-testing

         ___√__ Outside the classroom

         ___√__ Across the discipline

Direct measures of student learning

         ___√__ Capstone experience

         ___√__ Portfolio assessment

         ______ Standardized tests

         ______ Performance on national licensure, certification or

                     preprofessional exams

         ___√__ Qualitative internal and external juried review of

                     of comprehensive senior projects

         ______ Externally reviewed exhibitions and performances in

                     the arts

         ______ External evaluation of performance during internships


Discussion and Description

Discipline goals, direct measures, and improved student learning


         1. Structure of assessment activities in the statistics discipline

         Assessment of student learning occurs in four areas:

Š      general education

Š      the statistics major and minor

Š      liberal arts statistical support system

Š      special areas of service learning/civic engagement and technology enhanced learning

         The focus in this report will be on the major and general education, and on technology enhanced learning only to the degree that it bears on the two areas of focus.


         2. Three phases

         The assessment program is divided into three phases:

Š      setting forth the discipline’s mission, establishing learning objectives, delineating expected outcomes, identifying and organizing assessment methods and tools

Š      identifying possible uses and actions based on assessment

Š      improving student learning based on assessment data


         3. Discipline learning objectives

Š      Students will gain the basic knowledge and skills to make statistical contributions to modern society, whether in the form of pure statistics or statistics applied to other disciplines.

Š      Students will sharpen their statistical intuition and abstract reasoning as well as their reasoning from numeric data.

Š      Statistics and statistics curriculum will enhance students’ critical thinking in domains involving judgments based on data and stimulate the type of independent thinking requiring research beyond the confines of the textbook.

Š      The curriculum will prepare students to enter graduate school, and pursue careers in applied statistics.

Š      The students will be able to see and communicate statistical ideas/results effectively and identify potential pitfalls of any statistical analysis.

         Each learning objective is accompanied by expected outcomes.


         4. Course-embedded assessment of the general education component

         4.1 Learning checks

         A learning check is a student’s performance on a statistical topic such as scatterplots or least-squares regression[1]. Thirty checks are used every semester in every section of the two introductory statistics courses, Introduction to Statistics, with a high school algebra prerequisite, and the calculus-based Statistical Methods. This tool was implemented in 1997 when the college curriculum was based on the quarter system. The database has 3,986 points as of spring 2007.

         4.2 Retention of student learning study

         This study sought to measure the amount of information and types of skills that students retained after they had taken one of the introductory statistics courses. The tool was a new version of the comprehensive final exam previously taken. Students also filled out a comprehensive questionnaire that provided background information to help interpret the results. The results of the exams were converted into a quantitative “relative loss” parameter—how much information and skill had the student lost? On average, the forty-eight students who took the retention exam had taken introductory statistics 2.5 years earlier. The results were analyzed to see which kinds of information and skill were lost or retained, and whether there was a correlation to the instructor, the year the course was taken, the final course grade, and gender.[2] 


         5. Capstone course and e-portfolios

         5.1 Senior seminar

         This is a year-long capstone course in which statistics majors demonstrate that they have met the discipline’s learning objectives. There is a three-fold assessment of

Š      student learning of basic statistical concepts

Š      [the] student’s ability to carry out research

Š      [the] student’s ability to communicate findings

The vehicle for this is the presentation of a seminar on a statistical topic, which, besides the expected research by the student, entails weekly meetings with the faculty supervisor, interviews and oral exams. The seminar, with its research and presentation components, is evaluated by statistics faculty, faculty from other disciplines, other senior seminar students, and external individuals related to the project. These evaluations are analyzed statistically.

         5.2 E-portfolio

         Statistics majors keep a University of Minnesota E-Portfolio, which generates an “individualized student learning profile.”[3] The profile characterizes students before enrollment at UMM, tracks their development as statisticians at UMM, and maintains a record of their professional lives after UMM.


         6. Assessment driven actions

         6.1 Driven by the need for effective communication

         Past assessments “showed our students lacked the ability to communicate their findings correctly and effectively by using simple words that can be understood by non-statisticians,”[4] those in question being both general education students and majors. The discipline’s response was to implement the Media Reports Project[5] in conjunction with UMM’s Center for Small Towns and UMM’s External Relations unit.

         6.2 Driven by the capstone course assessment

         The discipline has placed greater emphasis on the theory of statistics in higher level courses, started the capstone project earlier, increased coverage of some topics, and redesigned two courses. It is seeking ways to enhance student learning in the areas of critical and independent thinking.

         6.3 Driven by the retention of student learning study

         The discipline is just completing the statistical analysis of data from this new initiative.

         6.4 Driven by the Technology Enhanced Learning survey

         “The discipline applied and received a grant to create a vertically and horizontally integrated technology enhanced learning environment...The project aims to respond to diverse ways of learning.”[6]


         7. Improving student learning

         The most recent assessment identifies nine positive and three negative findings. The discipline has used its accumulated findings to compare earlier and recent statistics majors, 2003 being the dividing year. “It is hypothesized that the second [recent] stage would reflect the changes made based on the findings of the assessment of student learning process.”[7] A classification and regression tree analysis indicates improved student learning especially in communicating statistical ideas effectively. There was no statistically significant change in the critical thinking and independent thinking domains of the learning objectives.


General education categories spanned by the discipline


            Statistics courses all bear the M/SR, mathematics/symbolic reasoning, general education designator with the exception of directed study, which bears none.



[1] The full list is on page 18 of the discipline’s report, which is in the appendices.

[2] Pp. 17-18 of the statistics discipline’s assessment report.

[3] Ibid., p. 7.

[4] Ibid., p. 12.

[5] Ibid., p. 19.

[6] Ibid., p. 21.

[7] Ibid., p. 12.