International Statistical Review

On Becoming a Statistician—A Qualitative View

Journal Article


In this paper, we highlight some qualitative facets of the discipline of statistics and argue that a qualitative approach, in particular a qualitative methodology known as phenomenography, allows us to research important aspects of statistics pedagogy. We summarize several components of our recent research into students' conceptions of statistics, their learning of statistics, our teaching of statistics, and their perceptions of their future professional work. We have obtained this information on the basis of analyses of several series of interviews with students studying statistics, both as statistics majors and as service students. In each of these cases, the broadest views relate in some way to personal connection, growth, and change. In other words, they contain a strong ontological component—focusing on being or becoming a statistician—above and beyond the standard epistemological component—focusing on the knowledge required to do statistics. We discuss the importance of personal change in becoming a statistician, or an informed professional user of statistics, and investigate the pedagogical conditions under which such change is likely to occur.

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