30 September 2013

Those who can, teach statistics

The phrase I despise more than any in popular use (and believe me there are many contenders) is “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.” I like many of the sayings of George Bernard Shaw, but this one is dismissive, and ignorant and born of jealousy. To me, the ability to teach something is a step higher than being able to do it. The PhD, the highest qualification in academia, is a doctorate. The word “doctor” comes from the Latin word for teacher. Teaching is a noble profession, on which all other noble professions rest. Teachers are generally […]
9 September 2013

How to study statistics (Part 1)

To students of statistics Most of my posts are directed at teachers and how to teach statistics. The blog this week and next is devoted to students. I present principles that will help you to learn statistics. I’m turning them into a poster, which I will make available for you to printing later. I’d love to hear from other teachers as I add to my list of principles. 1. Statistics is learned by doing One of the best predictors of success in any subject is how much time you spent on it. If you want to learn statistics, you need […]
2 September 2013

Open Letter to Khan Academy about Basic Probability

Khan academy probability videos and exercises aren’t good either Dear Mr Khan You have created an amazing resource that thousands of people all over the world get a lot of help from. Well done. Some of your materials are not very good, though, so I am writing this open letter in the hope that it might make some difference. Like many others, I believe that something as popular as Khan Academy will benefit from constructive criticism. I fear that the reason that so many people like your mathematics videos so much is not because the videos are good, but because […]
22 July 2013

Conceptualising Probability

The problem with probability is that it doesn’t really exist. Certainly it never exists in the past [once we know the outcome]. (Looking for the Experimental Design post linked from our Newsletter? Use this link.) Probability is an invention we use to communicate our thoughts about how likely something is to happen. We have collectively agreed that 1 is a certain event and 0 is impossible. 0.5 means that there is just as much chance of something happening as not. We have some shared perception that 0.9 means that something is much more likely to happen than to not happen. […]
24 June 2013

Difficult concepts in statistics

Recently someone asked: “I don’t suppose you’d like to blog a little on the pedagogical knowledge relevant to statistics teaching, would you? A ‘top five statistics student misconceptions (and what to do about them)’ would be kind of a nice thing to see …” I wish it were that easy. Here goes: Things that I have found students find difficult to understand and what I have done about them. Observations When I taught second year regression we would get students to collect data and fit their own multiple regressions. The interesting thing was that quite often students would collect unrelated […]
20 May 2013

Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Pedagogical content knowledge for Statistics Pedagogical content knowledge means knowing how to teach a specific subject, discipline or context. There is a school of thought that the skill of teaching is transferable between subjects, so long as the teacher knows the content. However others argue that teaching strategies differ sufficiently across disciplines to create individual but overlapping bodies of knowledge, called pedagogical content knowledge. To me it is clear that different skills and approaches are needed in the teaching of different disciplines. The methods for teaching a foreign language differ largely from those for teaching history or science or cake […]
13 May 2013

Teaching statistical report-writing

Teaching how to write statistical reports It is difficult to write statistical reports and it is difficult to teach how to write statistical reports. When statistics is taught in the traditional way, with emphasis on the underlying mathematics the process of statistics is truncated at both ends. When we concentrate on the sterile analysis, the messy “writing stuff” is avoided. Students do not devise their own investigative questions, and they do not write up the results. Here’s the thing though – in reality, the analysis step of a statistical investigation is a very small part of the whole, and performed […]