Remarkable turnaround on student results

Published: Tuesday 19th January 2016

Excellent educational design, best-practice teaching and outstanding leadership has helped ACU Statistics Unit students achieve an amazing turnaround in results – from a 70 percent fail rate to an 85 percent pass rate in 2015.

This substantial improvement is due to the committed re-working of the unit by ACU teaching teams across campuses in Melbourne, Brisbane and North Sydney.

The key to success was turning students’ attention back to  foundational mathematics skills. The change in emphasis was made in line with research that showed a strong correlation between math proficiency and success in introductory statistics units.

The project involved progressive in-class quizzes during the semester and a final exam which changed in emphasis from getting the ‘right answer’ to demonstrating how students reached their answer.

In changing the focus students were rewarded for what they knew, rather than being penalized for what they missed. EXCEL was also extensively used in the tutorials so that more authentic learning using industry standard software could be accomplished.

Project leader Professor Don Ross (pictured), from ACU’s Peter Faber Business School, said statistics is perceived as a “killer subject” in most universities, not only for first year students, but also for post-graduates aged in their 30s and 40s.

“There are MBA (Executive) students in their mid-30s and older, who are terrified of Statistics” he said. "Our success at the undergraduate level is the result of a team-effort with my colleagues to substantially re-work STAT102 Business Data Analysis.

“We have been rewarded with a major, positive turnaround in student success rates. “This is about enabling young people to achieve success: to ‘be that accountant’, or ‘have a degree’, and is life changing.”

Deputy Head of Peter Faber Business School (Sydney), Professor Peter Steane, said the successful result was an example how ACU can fundamentally change the lives of students:

“It is truly mission critical – for a Catholic University – in enabling kids, especially from aspirational families in seeking professional careers”..

“Unlike other universities, who take good students and give them a ‘leg up’, ACU takes young people who aspire to succeed, and yet may not have been accepted elsewhere, and from this basis, helps them achieve their dreams” he said.

“This means that kids are leaving this unit feeling good about themselves, their achievement, ACU, and their prospects,” he said.

National Head of the Peter Faber Business School, Professor Susan Dann said “In terms of Student Success, this is a gem. I think Don’s leadership of the team from our Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne campuses to deliver this turn-a-round has been outstanding.”

“This is exactly the type of innovative teaching outcomes that the Peter Faber Business School stands for in making success possible for our business students,” she said.

Learning and Teaching Centre Director Kevin Ashford Rowe said the success of the statistics reflected ACU’s commitment to improving numeracy skills for our students.

"One of our Learning for Life Hallmarks aims at boosting numeracy skills and compliments ACU’s vision of challenging the student’s way of thinking by seeking to provide them with the skills and knowledge they will need to contribute and lead in the workplace and wider community,” he said.

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