Introducing STAT 100: statistical literacy

In the past, Colorado State University undergraduates lacking core quantitative prerequisites had to take MATH 101: Math in the Social Sciences to fulfill the AUCC quantitative reasoning requirement. There were few alternatives to MATH 101 that might benefit students. The Department of Statistics envisioned a course that was accessible to students with little or no math background, and little or no desire to pursue future quantitative courses. Thus, STAT 100: Statistical Literacy was born. 

Mary Meyer, a statistics professor, first taught STAT 100 as an experimental course and in Fall 2019, instructor Grace Ivins was charged with continuing its development. To ensure that STAT 100 fulfilled its mission of accessibility and relevance, Ivins first focused on identifying who was taking the course. When the initial STAT 100 course offerings became available, many sophomores, juniors, and seniors jumped at the opportunity to register; the predominant majors in the course were Social Work and Journalism. With this in mind, Ivins centered STAT 100 on statistical concepts that the public encounter every day (e.g. population, sample, bias, confounding), so that at the completion of the course, students were able to critically assess statistical claims seen in the real world. Each topic was approached from a practical rather than technical perspective using media articles that report on statistical studies as the primary source material.

Another focal point of development was the class setting. In order to support an inclusive environment for  students from non-quantitative fields in the classroom, STAT 100 was designed to promote community among students. Students are expected to be active in the class, discussing and exploring statistical concepts with their peers, whereas note taking from a lecture and performing numerous solo, rote calculations were de-emphasized.  The grading structure was also created to mirror this ideology, with large portions of the assessment allocated to class activities and group participation instead of exams and other individual level assignments. 

Although still in its infancy, data suggest STAT 100 has been successful at serving students for whom the quantitative reasoning requirement is a barrier to graduation, with completion rates ranging 92-100% . Furthermore, feedback from advisors suggest that the course has been an excellent AUCC option for students across the university.