“We’re making short dance films to teach statistics to psychology degree students”, I say. *Puzzled look*… *Thinking hard*… “How does that work?!”… This is a conversation I am having on a regular basis at the moment.
A friend introduced me to her childhood neighbour (now a psychology statistician and lecturer) 2 years ago. I emailed expressing my interest in her ideas about using dance to teach statistics and now I’m project managing and producing a multi-disciplinary cross-sector project funded by the British Psychological Society (kind of like ACE but for psychologists) and IdeasTap, recruiting artists, creating marketing strategies and planning launch events. Totes amaze.
So how do you teach high level complex statistical concepts through dance on film?? We don’t know yet. Well we do. A bit. Our first physical research and rehearsal sessions are yet to come. On the most fundamental level, statistics are about relationships – similarities and differences. Relationships between groups of people, between characteristics and predictors, between preferences and behaviours. Dance knows all about relationships – between people, body and space, the body in relation to itself – so why wouldn’t it work?!
If you’ve heard of Dance Your PhD (via TED) then you’ll know that complex scientific ideas can be understood by lay persons through the medium of dance – it works and its cool. Maths is slightly different to science though – there are definite right and wrong answers – and as such, research shows that maths is best learnt by rote (e.g. practising your times tables over and over). Statistics, however, is not a ‘right and wrong’ type of maths. There’s a million different ways you can manipulate/look at data and consider different relationships, given the perspective you’re interested in. So… contemporary dance should be an effective vehicle for educating about the most fundamental elements that psychology students studying statistics need to know.
We’ve shortlisted 4 concepts/constructs to tackle in this stage of the project (we hope to expand and delve into grander more complex statistics in the future) and will very soon be exploring and physicalising. If you have carried out (or are doing, or planning to do) similar research, we’d love to hear from you – your challenges and successes – so please do get in touch. Otherwise, watch this space for more soon about the statistics that came to life!