P1-06: Understanding Statistics for Good: Teaching Social Responsibility through Statistical Consulting in a Service Learning Course

By Judith E. Canner and Alana Unfried, California State University, Monterey Bay


The GAISE Report calls for the use of real data in statistics courses, but often, students do not get to experience the messiness and struggle of working on a real problem, with real people, without a known solution. Through consulting experiences, undergraduates can engage in the evaluation of evidence in authentic contexts with real consequences. In our “big data” driven society, where algorithms may perpetuate bias and oppress the already vulnerable, students now, more than ever, must recognize their social responsibility as statisticians to ethically practice their profession and analyze how their professional activities and knowledge can contribute to greater long‐term societal well‐being. One approach to teaching social responsibility in statistics is through service-learning. Service-learning is experience-based learning, where the student takes an active role in an experience or project that benefits the community while also deepening the student’s own understanding of a particular curriculum. We discuss the integration of both service learning and statistical consulting into a single course to encourage civic engagement, where students understand and question the social and political factors that cause social problems and challenge and change them, and social responsibility through professional applications of statistics. Though we will discuss specific examples of readings, assignments, and projects from our consulting service learning course, our goal is to provide specific pedagogy and examples of how service learning may be integrated broadly into the statistics curriculum so that any statistics educator may adopt service learning pedagogy to their particular course/circumstances or community needs.