ENBIS-16 in Sheffield

11 – 15 September 2016; Sheffield Abstract submission: 20 March – 4 July 2016

Assessing and Enhancing Conceptual Understanding: a Statistical and Educational Challenge

13 September 2016, 10:10 – 10:30


Submitted by
Germana Trinchero
Germana Trinchero (Ministry of Public Education, Turin), Ferdinando Arzarello (Department of Mathematic, University of Turin), Ron S. Kenett (Department of Mathematic, University of Turin), Ornella Robutti (Department of Mathematic, University of Turin), Paola Carante (Department of Mathematic, University of Turin)
Assessing the level of conceptual understanding of students is both a statistical and a pedagogical challenge. In the context of Mathematics and Statistics, teachers need to be able to effectively convey concepts to students and feedback on their work is critical information. In this talk, we present experience gained in Italian secondary schools using a novel approach for assessing conceptual understanding called MERLO (Meaning Equivalence Reusable Learning Objects). MERLO is a didactic and methodological tool originally developed by Shafrir and Etkind to emphasize a pedagogical focus on conceptual understanding (Etkind et alii, 2010).
What we call ‘MERLO pedagogy’ is composed of structured activities covering specific concepts within a discipline, through multi-semiotic representations in multiple sign systems as elements of items to be solved by the students, along with specific teaching practices and methodologies to be applied by the teacher with the students (Arzarello et alii, 2015). Each MERLO item includes five different statement representations that can share or not share the same meaning, being similar only in appearance. The innovation in MERLO consists of directly challenging students in discovering deep relations among different representations, and not in simply stating if they are true or false, or relate each other because they are similar in appearance (Arzarello et alii, in preparation). The teaching innovation is the design of these items by teacher educators, researchers, and teachers, according to the MERLO pedagogy.
The talk will present an example based on MERLO student scores with results that can be generalized in the general context of statistical education. We will show how to compare performance of different classes, the advantage of group exercises and how one can identify the level of conceptual understanding of different concepts. This study shows how to meet the statistical challenge of measuring the level of understanding of students with implications on how Statistics can be taught.

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