P2-27: Teaching Introductory Statistics Concepts in an Interdisciplinary Honors Course

By Lisa W. Kay (Eastern Kentucky University)


Information regarding two interdisciplinary honors courses will be presented. The author has team taught “Governed by Chance” with government professors and “Kentucky Narratives and Numbers” with an English professor. “Governed by Chance” examines statistical concepts in a political context. In “Kentucky Narratives and Numbers,” literary works serve as a basis for generating discussions about topics of interest in the commonwealth such as family, poverty, health, education, coal, the economy, basketball, and guns. Both courses include some coverage of graphs, descriptive statistics, data collection, randomness, probability, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing, correlation, and linear regression. Real data sets were used to engage students in both interdisciplinary honors courses taught by the author. In particular, many data sets related to Kentucky were used in the Kentucky Narratives and Numbers course; the co-teachers generally found pertinent data sets via internet searches. The poster will present some examples.

These courses fulfill general education requirements at a four-year institution. Students may sign up for an interdisciplinary course in the honors program so that it fills one of the two major areas included in the course within the general education structure, and the only prerequisite is completion of an honors rhetoric course. Thus, a wide variety of quantitative backgrounds may be present within one section of a class—students may have minimal mathematical backgrounds (completion of developmental requirements), or they could be statistics majors. It is imperative to engage the students in the interdisciplinarity of the course in such a way that they are neither lost nor bored. Each class is capped at a size of 20 to promote dialogue and to allow for students to receive individual attention.

This poster will examine the unique challenges and opportunities involved in teaching introductory statistics in an honors course with a co-teacher in another area. While there are different approaches to team teaching, the author is most familiar with a true team approach in which both instructors attend all or most classes, work together to create class plans, contribute to discussions (although often one is in charge of leading a particular discussion), and participate in assessment of student work. Certainly some pairings are more conducive to integration than others. In the course that combined statistics and government, the instructors regularly crossed disciplinary boundaries during class discussions; the combination of statistics and literature has not naturally led to as much instructional crossover, although it has been present. Some of the challenges involved in team teaching such an interdisciplinary course include addressing field-specific terminology and approaches, integrating information from different areas in a way that is seamless and interesting, finding ways to include all of the topics that both instructors see as relevant, and convincing students that it is okay for instructors to cross disciplinary boundaries during discussions and to have different perspectives. Some of the opportunities include being creative in course construction, learning more about another specialty, working with high-achieving students, and developing examples or approaches that may be used in other courses.

Strategies for finding potential co-teachers will be discussed. Team teaching is a hallmark of the Eastern Kentucky University Honors Program. The program typically holds a workshop each year that provides information regarding team teaching strategies and includes a session that uses a “speed-dating” approach to meeting other potential co-teachers. However, for the first course that the author created for the honors program, she came up with an idea and contacted an instructor in another department with whom she wanted to work. The challenge at some institutions may be convincing administration that team teaching is worth the expense. An interdisciplinary course could be offered without team teaching, but that would require the instructor to be comfortable with the areas involved.

Assessment data for the more recent course, Kentucky Narratives and Numbers will be examined. Assessment data will be collected via scoring of problems copied from students’ final exams. A Graduate Assistant in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics will use EKU’s General Education quantitative rubric to score the papers. General Education assessment data for EKU’s introductory statistics courses may be considered for comparison purposes.

Poster - Lisa Kay.pdf