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Teacher Statistical Literacy

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Statistical Literacy

"Statistical literacy is a critical, though neglected skill that should be addressed if children are to become informed members of the community." Gal, 2004

One of the major objectives of the ABS Education Services unit is to promote greater understanding, knowledge and access to ABS statistics by teachers, school librarians and students. It aims to 'increase statistical literacy in the community, with a special focus on the schools sector'.

As a first step in this direction, the ABS researched and developed a set of four criteria that are considered essential for statistical literacy. For each criteria a set of competencies has been proposed against which statistical literacy can be assessed at three different levels. The ABS proposes that the following criteria be used as a framework for achieving statistical literacy and that this definition be used as a basis for consulting with the education sector.

Data awareness

Basic (upper primary) Intermediate (junior secondary) Advanced (middle/senior secondary)

Read the data*:Read between the data*:Read beyond the data*:
  • Understand the need for data to be collected.
  • Recognise that there is more than one way to collect data. For example a census or survey.
  • Understand that various factors impact on data quality.
  • Be aware of how bias can be introduced. For example, response rate, question wording, sample selection etcetera.
  • Recognise how to limit errors.
  • Understand which data collection method is appropriate for a specific question.
  • Formulate research questions.
  • Make decisions about the suitability of data.
  • Understanding of methodological issues such as sampling technique, survey design, minimising 'noise' etcetera.
  • Contextual understanding.
Ability to understand statistical concepts

Basic (upper primary) Intermediate (junior secondary) Advanced (middle/senior secondary)

Descriptive:Explanatory:Analytical/critical:
  • Recognise basic concepts including mean and range and have some understanding of their meaning.
  • Understand basic graphs/tables.
  • Understand concepts such as variance.
  • Understanding of chance such as percentages, ratios etcetera.
  • Choose the correct statistic for the purpose.
  • Understanding of probability such as randomness, independence, statistical significance etcetera.
Ability to analyse, interpret and evaluate statistical information

Basic (upper primary) Intermediate (junior secondary) Advanced (middle/senior secondary)

  • Summarise basic data.
  • Ability to read and produce graphs and tables.
  • Recognise relationships among and between variables.
  • Understand concept of errors.
  • Produce tables/graphs/maps of data appropriately.
  • Question the source of data and the methodology used.
  • Understand the importance of and take into account the metadata.
  • Understand which statistical tools are appropriate to context.
  • Explain more complex relationships such as trends, multi factor variance etcetera.
  • Predict and generalise from data.
  • Recognise that trends exist but may not be stable.
  • Understand how a third variable may explain a relationship between two others.
  • Assess data quality.
  • Identify gaps in the data.
Communicate statistical information and understandings

Basic (upper primary) Intermediate (junior secondary) Advanced (middle/senior secondary)

  • Ability to describe in words what set of data is saying.
  • Ability to display data in simple graphical and tabular form.
  • Ability to produce basic statistical summary data. For example percentages, mean etcetera.
  • Ability to turn data into information.
  • Understanding of the statistical conventions of representing data.
  • Ability to organise and manage data.
  • Use appropriate format and medium to report data.
  • Ability to apply statistical reasoning to support decisions.
  • Communicate the meaning of statistical terms and concepts to others.
  • Demonstrate adherence to ethical issues such as confidentiality.

* Friel, Susan N. et al (2002)


Further reading

Statistical Literacy Background Paper
This paper outlines the research and analysis on which the above criteria were based.




Statistical Literacy and Scientific Investigation
This paper discusses how you can assist your student to engage with the statistical issues involved in scientific investigations, especially directed experiments.





Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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