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Crossing the liminal space: studentsí understanding of confidence intervals


Reaburn, R and Holland, B and Oates, G and Stojanovski, E, Crossing the liminal space: students' understanding of confidence intervals, Proceedings of the 12th Delta conference on the teaching and learning of undergraduate mathematics and statistics, 24 - 29 November 2019, Fremantle, Western Australia, pp. 176. ISBN 978-1-74108-498-6 (2019) [Refereed Conference Paper]

DOI: doi:10.26183/5d5f53ed9c926


This paper describes responses first-year university students gave to a survey asking them about their understanding of Confidence Intervals, after their first introduction to the topic in a statistics course at two tertiary institutions in Australia. Their responses indicate that whereas the participants could explain that Confidence Intervals were used to estimate the value of a population mean, in general they were confused about the theory that enabled probabilities to be assigned to such intervals. Some participants were also confused about the terminology used in inferential statistics. The results of this study suggest that instructors should not underestimate how difficult students find this topic. We must be careful to include questions that require explanations of understanding, not just numerical answers that can be learnt by rote. We conclude that more research is needed into student understanding of confidence intervals, including the suggestion from this study that Confidence Intervals might be considered as a Threshold Concept in advancing studentsí statistical thinking.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Conference Paper
Keywords:confidence intervals, troublesome knowledge, student understanding
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Curriculum and pedagogy
Research Field:Curriculum and pedagogy theory and development
Objective Division:Education and Training
Objective Group:Learner and learning
Objective Field:Learner and learning not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Reaburn, R (Dr Robyn Reaburn)
UTAS Author:Holland, B (Professor Barbara Holland)
UTAS Author:Oates, G (Dr Greg Oates)
ID Code:136266
Year Published:2019
Deposited By:Education
Deposited On:2019-12-11
Last Modified:2020-01-30

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