Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Education

Research Student: Theognosia Michailidou

Introductory statistics courses in tertiary institutions in Cyprus: Non-cognitive factors behind performance

Submission Date: August 2017

Usually, many university students are required to complete at least one statistics or statistics-related/quantitative-based course as a part of their undergraduate degrees. This is a fact not only for mathematics majors but also for students specializing in other disciplines. These fields include health sciences, physical sciences, business studies, education, engineering, psychology, sociology, and so on. The main focus of my research work will be the exploration of a variety of factors (individual, academic, environmental) including non-cognitive factors, for instance beliefs, predispositions, attitudes, interests, goals, expectations towards statistics and the nature of their relationship with course outcomes and especially students’ performance at the end of the statistics course. Furthermore, mathematical background, achievements and abilities (e.g. final grades at the high school, attitudes and beliefs regarding the mathematics science, attitudes and anxiety concerning learning and using computers, will also be examined to determine if they are associated with students’ statistics performance. Among the questions of interest is whether interpersonal characteristics and features of students such as self-efficacy, motivation, effort, persistence, procrastination, learning styles, and study habits play some role in statistics achievement. The learning environment, the didactic techniques and the ways of assessment are also factors which their reciprocal association with non-cognitive issues such as beliefs and attitudes and statistics final achievement will also be under consideration. The perceived social support provided to the students will be explored and if it can be considered as an influencing factor in students’ performance will also be investigated.

Johnston-Wilder and Lee (2010) explained the term of mathematical resilience “as a positive adaptive stance to mathematics such that it will allow the students to continue learning despite barriers and difficulties”. Something analogous can be cited for “statistical resilience”. Individual and academic characteristics associated with resilience will be explored and discussed. Special attention will be placed to the relationship between the students’ self-efficacy and the resilience in academic settings.
The participants of the study will be students enrolled in introductory statistics courses in tertiary institutions in Cyprus. (In Cyprus, eight recognized Universities function). Mixed-method study design (combination of quantitative and qualitative methods for collecting data) will be utilized.
The results and the conclusions of this thesis may be a helpful tool, for all the stakeholders of statistics education in Cyprus (and not only), in an effort to develop and improve the efficacy of a statistics education experience.

Background

Mathematics and statistics is an area that I have always been fascinated with. Ever since I was a student I have taken any opportunity to develop my mathematical knowledge and aptitudes by participating in a number of events and competitions. My flair and passion for Mathematics have driven me to pursue an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Statistics.

I possess a B.Sc. in “Mathematics and Statistics” from the University of Cyprus. In my postgraduate studies, I combined my interest in Mathematics and Statistics with my interest in the fast-growing and ever-changing world of Finance.

I obtained my M.Sc. in “Financial Mathematics” from the Warwick Business School (University of Warwick).

After the completion of my undergraduate and postgraduate studies, I was working for one year as a Mathematics and Statistics teacher/tutor in my country. My experiences initially as a student and then as a teacher engendered my desire and my interest to gain a deeper insight, knowledge and understanding of education-related issues and to engage with education research especially in the field of mathematics and statistics.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

After my undergraduate and postgraduate studies, I have decided to commence a Ph.D. in Education since I am committed to follow a career in the field of education and engage in education-related issues. Specifically, I want to concentrate on and specialize in the education of mathematics and statistics at all the levels of schooling.
My intense interest in education and my strong desire to follow an academic career is guided from the belief that when you teach, you become a better learner yourself and comprehend the teaching material in a greater extend and depth. Teaching is an interchange of knowledge, ideas and opinions between educators and students.
The motivation and the incentive to continue my studies at a Ph.D. level have steamed from my interest and willingness to engage in a flourishing research community, to attend research seminars and conferences and to collaborate with scientists and other researchers. Moreover, my ultimate goal is to develop and enrich my research skills; to delve in-depth in research methodology and receive training in research techniques, procedures and principles; and to step up and deepen my knowledge and competences with regard to the field of mathematics and statistics. In my opinion, the aim of a Ph.D. journey is not only to publish research papers and reach tangible and useful results, but also to achieve an academic and personal development and improvement.

What makes me passionate about my subject?

Education is a pivotal process in human development and every step and endeavor for reinforcing and improving the quality of education provided to students is of prime importance. My intense interest in education and my strong desire for a teaching career is guided by the belief that knowledge is valuable when you share and disseminate what you have learned and mastered.
Moreover, the study of education psychology has always intrigued me. The in-depth exploration, investigation and understanding of the social, emotional and behavioral psychology of young adults are of great importance in order to lessen the gap between pedagogues and students.
The one-year teaching experience that I acquired as a Mathematics and Statistics tutor helped me to understand that teaching is a profession that inspires me and fills me up. The interaction, the communication and the interchange of knowledge and ideas with students is the thing that makes me passionate and ardent with the field of education.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

Although a Ph.D. degree is a way to obtain an academic position and follow a research career, I can admit that it is not the milestone and the ultimate goal of my educational choices. My intention is to acquire as much knowledge and as many skills as I can throughout the tenure of my Ph.D. studies. I would like to improve my intellectual abilities, gain critical thinking, explore new areas of knowledge, expertise in my specialized area of interest and throughout the research training to have the potential to become an independent and competent researcher. The achievement of a Ph.D. degree is definitely considered an extra qualification which upgrades and enhances your curriculum vitae. A Ph.D. brings rewards and opportunities not only to flourish in the research environment, but also to a non-research sector. After the completion of my studies, I have the aspiration to enter into the competitive workforce market more skillful, mature and confident. By obtaining this high degree of qualification, I am looking forward to broaden my opportunities for jobs in order finally to land to my desirable profession. Ideally, this would be the teaching and mentoring of young adults to achieve their future goals and aspirations independently of the deficiencies and obstacles that may encounter.

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