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New Free Online Professional Learning Platform Supports Educators in Teaching Statistics and Data Science

Indigo graphic with a collage of images of people working in a classroom interspersed with icons including a lightbulb, magnifying glass and a wrench. Includes the text "Free personalized professional learning to support teachers and instructional coaches in developing expertise in teaching statistics and data science in grades 6-12.

As more data-rich experiences are infused into K-12+ education, the Hub for Innovation and Research in Statistics Education (HI-RiSE) team at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, in partnership with  RTI International, has designed and deployed a free, innovative and personalized online learning platform to allow teachers in grades 6-12+ to develop their expertise in teaching statistics and data science. This project, supported by a $2.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s DRK-12 program, has a goal to design a new way to support teachers’ professional learning in online spaces.

Invigorating Statistics and Data Science Teaching through Professional Learning (InSTEP) offers personalized professional learning to support teachers and instructional coaches by building their confidence and skills for teaching with data. With InSTEP, teachers can do the following:

  • Personalize their learning to meet their professional needs through customized recommendations, collaborative spaces and choice of learning modules and microcredentials.
  • Build their skills in data investigations and innovative teaching approaches based on practices of data professionals and research on students’ learning with data.
  • Expand their professional collection of resources and technology vetted by experts in statistics and data science education.
  • Earn certificates to apply to professional development hours or CEUs.
  • Sign up for free at

“The public launch of our platform marks the start of a new opportunity for teachers everywhere, but also a new opportunity for us researchers and educational designers to learn how our designs work well and what designs may also need some tweaking to better support teachers’ learning,” said HI-RiSE Co-director Hollylynne Lee, a Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Education in the NC State College of Education and a senior faculty fellow at the Friday Institute, which is part of NC State’s College of Education. “It is exciting to see how teachers will ‘design their own adventure’ for their professional learning and what they will take back into their classrooms.” 

Data literacy is a key skill for preparing students for professional and personal success. Yet despite a rise in the need for data science education, there is evidence that student achievement in data science skills are not as robust compared to other content areas, leaving students without fundamental data skills. To prepare students who are data literate and prepared to pursue careers requiring data science and statistics skills, teachers need to effectively integrate data experiences into their curricula. But many teachers have not had many experiences in data science practices and processes either. There is evidence that teachers are less confident to teach statistics and have limited opportunities to use statistics and data science practices, processes and technology tools to investigate large, messy data

Ninety-six percent of teachers who responded to a survey about InSTEP indicated that experiences with the InSTEP platform were effective in supporting their professional growth for teaching data science.

InSTEP provides two types of learning experiences to demonstrate learning: data investigations and self-paced modules. Data investigations allow educators to experience investigating real-world phenomena and consider how to implement it in their own classrooms. These experiences provide opportunities for teachers to become more confident and effective in providing data-rich experiences to support their students’ learning. Self-paced modules let educators pursue their own learning by choosing a module in a specific area of teaching statistics and data science that interests them.

“I learned a lot from the video exemplar lessons,” said a middle school science teacher about the platform. “It helped me refine my questioning in coaching students through a task and gave me a new perspective about how to approach teaching statistics in middle grades science classes.”

InSTEP is built on seven interrelated dimensions of instructional design that support developing students’ understanding of foundational processes, practices and ways of thinking used in statistics and data science classrooms. These dimensions are data and statistical practices, central statistical ideas, tasks, data, technology tools, argumentation and assessment of student thinking.

The InSTEP dashboard helps participants track their progress on data investigations, modules and microcredentials. Additionally, they can access their earned certificates, saved resources, recommendations, playlists and discussions.

“We know how busy teachers are and that they are constantly being asked to do more and more,” said Gemma Mojica, a senior research scholar at the Friday Institute and the other HI-RiSE co-director. “We hope that our personalized learning platform provides an opportunity for teachers to learn about teaching statistics and data science at their own pace so that they can fit this into their already packed schedules. We have used feedback from teachers as we designed our platform and tried to incorporate features that support this.”

Learn more and register for FREE at