Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Christine Thomas - Chair


Although more students are taking courses in statistics before leaving high school, the research base on teaching and learning statistics at the high school level has not accumulated as rapidly (Garfield & Chance, 2000). Very little is known about how secondary school students learn statistics, how the misconceptions they bring to the subject impede their learning, and what should be taught or assessed (Watson & Callingham, 2003). Studies that have investigated these issues tend to focus on the K-5, undergraduate, and graduate levels of education (Groth, 2003). Therefore, more research is needed at the secondary level (Garfield & Chance, 2000). The purpose of this qualitative investigation is to examine how secondary school students' approaches to learning relate to how they assign meaning to statistics. Phenomenography (Marton & Booth, 1997) is the theoretical orientation that frames the study, and it examines the role human experience plays in learning, by reporting variations in the ways participants experience a phenomenon (Dall'Alba & Hasselgreen, 1996). The research questions for the study were: 1) What are the different ways high school students define statistics? 2) What are the different ways high school students learn statistics? 3) What are the different ways students experience learning statistics? The nine participants in the study were high school graduates who completed a course in Statistics or Advanced Placement Statistics while enrolled in high school in a suburban area in the southeast. Data sources were semi-structured interviews and journaling. Using phenomenographic methodology, students' descriptions of the experience of learning were analyzed and coded. An outcome space of the collective experiences was constructed. A hierarchical relationship between students' approach to learning and their learning strategies was found. Also, a hierarchical relationship between students' approaches to learning and the meaning they assigned to statistics was found.

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