Statistics professor receives 3 year grant

Kristin Kovalsky, copy editor

Winona State University professor of mathematics and statistics, April Kerby, has received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The grant is for $600,000 and supports the Motivational Attitudes in Statistics and Data Science (MASDER) project that Kerby is a part of.

Kerby said that she, along with the rest of the co-principal investigators, will be creating a family of instruments that assess students’ attitudes in both statistics and data science.

Kerby said there will be three survey instruments used to collect data: student, faculty and environment.

“There’s going to be a student instrument which students will take, and it’s really assessing their attitudes in either statistics or data science. There’s an instructor instrument which will also look at their attitudes in teaching the subjects,” Kerby said. “There’s going to be an environment survey, as well, that will look at how the class is taught or what the university is like, so ‘do students have access to laptops, do they not?’ things like that.”

Existing surveys collecting data about attitudes regarding statistics aren’t centered around a theoretical framework.

“The one we’re working with starts with a theoretical framework and is building from there. Our hope is that eventually our family of surveys will become the go-to to use in data science and statistics education research worldwide,” Kerby said.

Currently, there are few surveys being used to look at attitudes towards data science.

“There are no real good or very many, if any, data science attitude surveys out there. So, we would be one of the first, if not the first, to create a survey instrument for data science that could then be used,” Kerby said.

Kerby said that she, and her colleagues, submitted the proposal multiple times before they received the NSF grant.

“We actually applied for an NSF grant the first time in 2017 and then we didn’t get funding, so we reworked the proposal and applied again in 2018 using the feedback they gave us and we didn’t get funding again,” Kerby said, “But it seemed really close, we almost had a proposal that they were really interested in and excited about funding. We reworked our proposal again and resubmitted it in the Fall of 2019, and this time it got funded.”

The funds from the grant will be used for incentives and the building of statistical instruments.

“[The funding will be for] incentives to get people to participate in the building of the instruments, because we have to create them and then we have to collect data and see if they’re

doing what we think they’re supposed to be doing. We’re really starting from the ground and going up from there,” Kerby said.

Department chair of mathematics and statistics, Nicole Williams, said that Kerby has worked towards her research goal since she started at Winona State.

“April Kerby is a reflective practitioner who continually seeks to revise her statistics courses by creating hands-on-activities and implementing new teaching strategies,” Williams said. “Her NSF grant focuses on improving students’ attitudes towards data science and statistics, which is a goal that April has been dedicated to since she came to Winona State in 2009.”