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Presentation 8G1. Statistics Teaching Enhanced by Teamwork - a Multicultural Experience in South Africa

Renette J Blignaut (South Africa)


Presentation Abstract

Keywords: Statistics teaching, teamwork, collaborative learning, multi-cultural teaching

Students at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) come from diverse cultures and often disadvantaged communities where basic amenities, such as running water and electricity, are not standard. The majority (63% in 2001) of our students had their first exposure to computers at university. In order to fast track our students with insufficient background knowledge and to meet increasing technological needs, more effective methods of teaching Statistics needed to be explored. Since 1997 innovative teaching approaches such as, collaborative learning, teamwork and the use of mind maps were introduced and used to aid students to become acquainted with the prescribed subject matter. These new approaches were compared to traditional classroom teaching in 1997. It was found that the students achieved significantly higher marks when using the collaborative learning and teamwork approaches compared to traditional classroom teaching [Blignaut,1998]. Since 1997 teamwork and collaborative learning has successfully been used in teaching Statistics at second year level at UWC. Students had not only studied the prescribed material more efficiently, they had also developed skills to function effectively in a multi-cultural team. The development of basic team skills is crucial to function and work in a multi-cultural society in South Africa.

Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were used to collect data. Self-administered questionnaires were used to collect quantitative data and student comments, interviews and e-mail messages constituted the qualitative data.

After students had been exposed to this new method of teaching many indicated that they enjoyed studying with peers, but some had reservations about the constitution of the groups.

"I find the group that I have been placed in, is a good group to be in. We work well together and if I don't understand anything, somebody always takes the time to explain while all the other members will give their input"

"I don't like the fact that you have chosen us for the group, we should group ourselves."

"…I strongly support the idea of group work …"

"Working in a group had made me understand some other work I didn't understand on my own"

They acquired social- conflict resolution-, management- and leadership skills;

"…the group also gave me an opportunity of understanding other people's behaviour"

as well as life long skills such as working with people from diverse cultures.

"…I gained some experience working with students of different colour"

Prior to 2001 teams were constituted according to Belbin's methodology [Belbin, 1993] without considering cultural differences or academic ability. During 2001 students selected their own teams of 4 to 5 members with the only condition that at least two home language groups should be represented in each team. Belbin's methodology will retrospectively be used to investigate the effectiveness of the self-selected teams compared to teams constituted using Belbin's methodology at the onset of the course.

1. BELBIN, R. MEREDITH. 1993. Team Roles at Work. Oxford, England: Butterworth-Heineman.

2. BLIGNAUT, R. J., VENTER, I. M.& STOLTZ, D. 1998. "Chalk-and-talk" versus Cooperative Learning. A Comparative Study. Proceedings of the 15th IFIP World Congress, edited by Gordon Davies. Vienna/Austria and Budapest/Hungary: 139-148.


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