Overcoming statistical helplessness and developing statistical resilience in learners: an illustrative, collaborative, phenomenological study

Sue Johnston-Wilder, Janet Goodall, Hani Almerhz

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Many people suffer from statistics anxiety or helplessness in the UK; this is true even in the context of PhD students studying at prestigious universities. There is a risk that anxiety or helplessness re-sults in students avoiding engagement with statistics, and consequent underachievement. Here, we illustrate the application of the construct ‘statistical resilience’ to developing positive engagement in statistics. We used the method of a collaborative phenomenological study. The collaboration is between a researcher and a PhD student acting as a research assistant. The relevant concepts in-clude learned helplessness, self-agency and statistical resilience. As the PhD student gained statis-tical resilience, he was able to leave behind learned helplessness. This resulted in emancipation from statistical anxiety, an effective contribution to a research project, raised self-esteem and in-creased ability to engage with formal statistical thinking. The paper ends with recommendations for policy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1105-1122
Number of pages18
JournalCreative Education
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2018



  • Maths anxiety

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