Alison Gibbs

Associate Professor, Teaching Stream
Department of Statistical Sciences
Faculty of Arts & Science

President's Teaching Award 2016



Alison Gibbs is an Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Statistical Sciences. She completed a BMath (Honours Co-op) in Applied Mathematics at the University of Waterloo and a BEd at the University of Western Ontario. She taught secondary school mathematics before pursuing graduate study in statistics at the University of Toronto, completing an MSc and a PhD. After holding NSERC postdoctoral and assistant professor positions at York University, she decided to focus her energies on her love of teaching and returned to the University of Toronto in 2002 as a teaching-stream faculty member. In 2014, she became the Department of Statistical Sciences’ Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies in Statistics.

Alison has been at the centre of curriculum renewal in statistics at the University of Toronto, developing courses and programs to deeply engage students in statistical practice. She led the creation of the applied statistics specialist program and developed several courses, including the capstone course Statistical Consultation, Collaboration, and Communication that promotes collaboration between 4th year statistics students and research students from other disciplines. She is currently spearheading widespread curriculum renewal efforts in Statistical Sciences, with the goal of improving students’ ability to adapt their skills to new problems that are arising with new technologies and new sources of data.

Alison has been a pioneer in the creation of open online resources at the University of Toronto. With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she led the development of the Massive Open Online Course Statistics: Making Sense of Data. The MOOC was co-taught with colleague Jeffrey Rosenthal and had enrolment of over 60,000 students in the active course. To date, over 150,000 participants have accessed the course materials. She was the project lead on the creation of online modules for introductory statistics, funded by the provincial government as part of the Ontario Online initiative. The modules are currently being used in inverted classrooms and fully online courses both at the University of Toronto and other institutions.

As a teacher, Alison’s primary goal is to have her students share her passion for statistics. She aims to give all her students a lens to see the world through the eyes of a statistician. Her students have praised the impact she has had on their view of the discipline, citing her “infectious” enthusiasm and attributing her courses with changing their “entire perspective of statistics.” In all her teaching innovations, Alison is motivated by improving the learning experience of her students. Concerned about gaps in her students’ conceptual understanding, she introduced the inverted classroom approach to a large introductory statistics course. She designed some sections of the course with a disciplinary focus, to allow students to see more applications of statistical methods in their own areas of study.

Alison recognizes the influence that great teachers and innovative colleagues have had on her own development as an educator, and she strives to pay this forward through mentorship of students and colleagues, generously sharing her resources, experience, and expertise. Her leadership in statistics education extends to national and international platforms. Within the Statistical Society of Canada, she has chaired the Statistical Education Committee, was instrumental in the creation of the Education Section, and led the rescue of the Canadian Census at School project for statistics in schools. She is currently a vice-president of the International Association for Statistical Education. Widely recognized as a leader in statistical education, she is in demand to give presentations at conferences and seminars.

Alison’s passion for teaching and leadership in statistics education was recognized in 2012 when she received the Faculty of Arts and Science Outstanding Teaching Award.