Teaching Statistical Literacy in Lincolnshire Schools: A Critical Case Study

Nye, Zoe Michelle (2023). Teaching Statistical Literacy in Lincolnshire Schools: A Critical Case Study. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00016fbd


This thesis uses a pragmatic, interpretivist multi-case study to explore the teaching of statistical literacy. Focusing on the lived experiences of three in-service secondary mathematics teachers, I develop a picture of their teaching and the influences on their professional practice whilst teaching statistics. Although research literature describes best practice for teaching statistical literacy, research with experienced in-service teachers is relatively rare and the factors which influence these teachers’ practice whilst working with the 11-16 age range have not previously been well explored.

My review of theoretical frameworks for best practice in teaching statistical literacy identified three different areas that would merit exploration. Firstly, the factors affecting teachers’ decision-making processes when planning and teaching statistics lessons. Secondly, the range of aspects which contribute to the teachers’ pedagogical subject knowledge and, thirdly, the impact of the teachers’ affective domain, such as their beliefs, values and emotional reactions to teaching statistical literacy.

Data were collected using lesson observations, semi-structured interviews, and teacher biographies, supplemented by examination data, national curricula and examination board syllabi. Analysis of the findings provides a perspective on the lived experiences of in-service secondary mathematics teachers teaching statistical literacy.

Findings indicate that external policy and social changes drive the teaching of statistical literacy. Whilst the teachers held that statistical literacy was important for building informed citizens, they felt that teaching the 11-16 age range is geared towards examination results and thus often avoided aspects of the curriculum which are rarely examined. As teaching statistical literacy gives a poor rate of return in examination marks for the teaching time invested, it is a low priority for teachers, despite its perceived usefulness.

The teachers in this study reported positive feelings towards teaching statistical literacy but described it as a ‘marmite subject’ and considered that mathematics teachers rarely have a positive attitude toward teaching it. In general, earlier positive exposure to statistics results in greater enthusiasm for teaching statistical literacy.

Teaching children in the 11-16 age range to interpret statistics would ultimately enable the population to critically engage with statistics in their adult lives without a sense of pervasive distrust. Mathematics teachers in England are currently responsible for teaching statistical literacy. My findings suggest that if we wish to build a statistically literate population, then initial teacher training and continuing professional development for teachers need to address this.

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