Statistical contents of Italian primary textbooks. A mixed methods research

Clerici, R. and Cisco, E. and Gola, Giancarlo (2010) Statistical contents of Italian primary textbooks. A mixed methods research. In: 3rd International conference of education, research and innovation ICERI 2010, 2010, Valencia: IATED-Int Assoc Technology Education & Development..

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This is the second step of a research project about the diffusion of statistical knowledge among young generations, in which we focus our interest on statistical contents of primary school text-books. From a precedent survey (Clerici & Cisco, 2010), we have seen that teachers think that text-books do not contain sufficient information about data analysis and forecasting of uncertain events (only 17% consider them sufficient), and so their teaching materials are mostly taken from other sources. This emerging issue resulted associated to a low level of self-evaluation of specific expertise in the subject. In the Italian primary school, statistics is placed within the mathematical curriculum, with probability, measures and relationships, and the text-books present 5-6 pages dedicated to “Data and forecasts” at the end of the math text-book. Now we analyse a sample of 5th grade math text-books, edited in the last few years, which we were sent from the publishers of school text-books for our research. By using a mixed-method approach (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998; Johnson & Onwuegbuzie 2004; Howe, 1988) we carry out the content analysis of these text-books, starting from an ex-ante checklist (Tuzzi, 2003). This checklist allows us to observe the contents of the pages dedicated to the subject. From an inspection of the pedagogical (Cobb, 1987; De Landersheere, 1989; Cisotto, 2006) and statistical literature (CIRDIS, CRDM) we identify the principal characteristics (vocabulary, structure, graphic system, technological links, exemplifications, etc.) and the statistical tools (mean, mode, median, diagrams, tables, etc., and the mistakes in their presentation) which can not be missed in a good text-book for the specific school level. Initially we use the CAQDAS package (Atlas.ti): this scientific software makes our job easier. Indeed, the application of Atlas.ti package permits us to describe accurately the relationships between structural and content aspects of the analysis units, i.e. the text-books, in which, according to a classical content analysis approach, a lot of characteristics are identified. Subsequently, the codes obtained from the computerized content analysis are transformed in the typical statistical data set: the “matrix of data”, in which the cases (each text-book) and the variables (each category created in Atlas.ti) are read and analysed by SPSS statistical package. Now, the aim is measuring the prevalence of the various text-books characteristics and the level of association between each other. The application of multivariate correspondence analysis to the set of these text-books characteristics permits the spotlight of content typology. The results of these quali-quantitative procedure will be the starting point for an experimental design in which the effects of the use of new teaching materials are compared with those of standard ones. The conjoint use of multi-method techniques - quantitative survey, content analysis, multivariate statistical analysis, experiment and test of hypothesis, focus groups in which privileged witnesses discuss the quantitative results - puts into act the “triangulation”. In a methodological perspective multi-method triangulation can produce interesting results about the statistical contents of school text-books and their evaluation.

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