Identifying threshold concepts in postgraduate statistical teaching to non-statisticians

Andrew Keith Wills


In this enquiry I discuss and investigate potential threshold concepts in the postgraduate statistics curriculum for medics and scientists (non-statisticians). In doing so, I also reflect on the elements of statistics these students need to learn and how they learn. Threshold concepts are a useful framework for thinking about the content of a curriculum. Having made large changes to the Units that I teach, I wanted to assess whether these changes were justified and whether there was rationale for further modifications, for example;   emphasising particular elements of the curriculum and/or deemphasising or dropping others. I used a questionnaire, administered to staff and students to try to identify potential threshold concepts. My hypothesis was that sampling variation (i.e. random/ sampling error, uncertainty) as coded by the sampling distribution is a threshold concept. The results, while preliminary, support this hypothesis and stimulated deeper thinking about the pedagogy of my teaching to these audiences.

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