Is GAISE Evident? College Students’ Perceptions of Statistics Classes as “Almost not Math”

Sarai Hedges and Shelly Harkness

The connection between mathematics and statistics is an important aspect in
understanding college students’ learning of statistics because studies have shown
relationships among mathematics attitudes and performance and statistics attitudes.
Statistics attitudes, in turn, are related to performance in statistics courses. Little
research has been done on college students’ perceptions of their mathematics and
statistics experiences. To fill this gap, a phenomenographical study of 12 college
students with self-identified negative attitudes about statistics was conducted to
understand their perceptions of their previous mathematics and statistics classes. An
integrated approach to data analysis was conducted in two phases. First, themes
emerged from an inductive analysis. Second, the six recommendations from the
Guidelines for Assessment and Instruction in Statistics Education (GAISE) College
Report (2005) were used as a priori categories as an organizing framework for
coding the data. Themes that emerged from the researchers’ analysis of the data were
changing attitudes about statistics, defining the nature of statistics, seeking help, and
blaming the teacher. The GAISE recommendations did not appear to be realized in
the statistics classes taken by these students in various programs of study.
Implications of these findings are discussed and recommendations for further
research are suggested. In understanding students’ experiences from their
perspectives, statistics educators can improve pedagogy and student learning.