14 January 2013

Assessment – a necessary evil

My northern hemisphere twitter buddies are well into the academic year, and facing the demands of grading, while here in New Zealand we are enjoying the sunshine and trying hard not to think about going back to work. However the teachers of High School statistics in New Zealand are facing (or trying not to) an interesting challenge in the coming year. They are going to have to mark (our word for grade) essays. Eek. One of the main reasons I majored in operations research, and became a mathematics teacher was that I was required neither to write nor grade essays. […]
15 October 2012

Optimal instruction in Statistics and Operations Research

Optimise everything! I had a colleague who believed that everything could and should be optimised. He had a diet Linear Program which he used to plan his meals to provide optimal nutrition. Unfortunately the Linear Program didn’t seem to have a constraint to ensure the food was palatable, and he would eat combinations like sardines, broccoli and sunflower seeds for lunch. My colleague also believed that there must be an optimal way to teach, that would maximise the learning outcome. I am doubtful that there is such a thing, bearing in mind the diversity of human experience. However I like […]
23 February 2012

Drill and Rote in teaching LP and Hypothesis Testing

Drill and rote-learning are derogatory terms in many education settings. They have the musty taint of “old-fashioned” ways of teaching. They evoke images of wooden classrooms and tight-lipped spinsters dressed in grey looming over trembling pupils as they recite their times-tables. Drill and rote-learning imply mindless repetition, devoid of understanding. Much more attractive educational terms are “discovery”, “exploration”, “engagement”. Constructivism requires that learners engage with their materials and create learning by building on existing knowledge and experiences. But (and I’m sure you could see this coming) I think there is a place for something not far from drill or rote-learning […]
21 February 2012

No more lectures!

The lecture is the mainstay of higher education, but is it really a good way for people to learn? Here is a guest blog about my statistics course. In No more lectures I explain how my course, “Quantitative Methods for Business” uses Moodle to deliver self-paced learning materials in a blended course. This became especially useful after the Christchurch earthquake, which occurred a year ago today. Another interesting discussion about doing away with lectures can be found here: How to replace the lecture And here is another interesting description of four things a lecture is good for. Just like textbooks, the lecture needs […]