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Presentation 6E2. Teacher's Beliefs about Usefulness of Simulation with Educational Software Fathom in order to Develop Concepts of Probability in Statistics Classroom

Ernesto Sanchez Sanchez (Mexico)


Presentation Abstract
We carried out a 24 hours research experience, distributed in eight sessions, with (senior) high school teachers with two aims in mind: 1) to train the teachers in the use of Fathom educational software, particularly in the use of simulation techniques in solving probability problems. Tasks included problematic situations whose solutions involve concepts such as conditional probability, total probability and Bayes' theorem; 2) to explore teachers' ideas about the possibility of utilizing software to develop concepts of probability in classroom.

In all the sessions, but the last one, we combined the work of learning the use of software with activities dealing with probabilistic problems. Classical problems, such as those of Falk, the problem of the base rate, among others, were discussed and solved.
Teachers elaborated work pages (work cards?) in that can be seen how they solved the problems and how they responded to other questions formulated by the experimenters.

In the last session a discussion was carried out about the possibilities of using the software in statistics classes (teachers were videotaped giving their opinions about this matter). All teachers but three were in favor of using the software, even though there were various expressions which, in some senses, contradict the generalized opinion (some like: "simulation is useful to solve practical problems but it doesn't help to develop theoretical ideas"; "simulation can validate the solution only when it coincides with the prediction"; "problems should be first 'paper and pencil' solved before making simulations").

During the workshop we observed various teachers' difficulties in achieving the simulations. In spite of them, most of the teachers could solve several problems, which allowed them to make clear the meaning of certain concepts and ideas.

Most of the professors whom we worked with still have the conception of a teaching technique based on a 'transmission' model in which explanation and exercises play the most important role. Thus, some of them think that software can help them to improve their explanations and to generate exercises.

Conclusion It is not enough that teachers know how to work with the concepts via software. It is also necessary to attempt to change their minds about their teaching model. In an experience we are designing, we also intend to promote a transformation in their conceptions about teaching.

Finzer, W; Erickson, T; Binker, J. 2000, Fathom: Dynamic Statistics Software, Key Curriculum Press, CA, USA.


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