I have spoken with many people who do not care for teaching, yet find themselves in a front of a classroom. I find many people in psychology, sociology, business, and the like who love teaching, just not teaching applied statistics.
If you are such an individual, it seems that you are not alone. I read an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education where the author admits to not liking teaching, yet realizing you can not like something and still be great at it (http://chronicle.com/article/I-Dont-Like-Teaching-There/139623/).
So, if as we enter into our break, you realize you do not like teaching … I suppose that’s OK. However, you owe it to your students to work at being great at it, nonetheless.
While on break, here are my tips for preparing to become the best teacher you can be.
(1) Read about teaching. Obviously, posts on this blog are a great place for teachers of applied statistics. You can also review books that I discussed on a previous blog (http://statisticalsage.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/summer-reading/). I also encourage you to look at the Society for the Teaching of Psychology’s web site. One free e-book, in particular that I would like to bring to your attention is: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/stats2012/index.php. This book, Teaching Statistics and Research Methods: Tips from ToP includes reprints of great articles on the teaching of applied statistics and research methods, and it’s FREE!
(2) Read about research, and look at the statistics involved. It is true that when I am teaching applied statistics, I have students come up with hypotheses to serve as examples for statistics problems. The only reason I am able to do this is I read a broad base of research in areas that not only interest me but also interest my students. My favorite journals for great examples for undergraduates are all Association for Psychological Science Journals, like Psychological Science, Current Directions, Perspectives in Psychological Science. APS has a new journal on clinical psychology that could also serve as a basis for great examples in the classroom. For people who are new to teaching applied statistics, write the information from the journal articles in the chapter or on your notes for a chapter. There is nothing more frustrating than standing up in the front of the classroom not being able to retrieve an example.
(3) Evaluate yourself and your students’ performance. Certainly it helps to take a couple of weeks off after grades are submitted, but it is important to evaluate how you did. What did your students learn well; what didn’t they? Examine, honestly and candidly … what happened, what coud you do that is better. Not surprising, I always find that if I get sick during a semester, even if I don’t miss any classes, my students just don’t do as well on the topics I covered while ill. We can’t be perfect, and we do need to be forgiving of ourselves, but we also have to be honest with our self assessment, and central to that self assessment is student performance. Here is a prior post on evaluating the teacher. http://statisticalsage.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/evaluating-the-teacher/
(4) Revise your syllabus. I have discussed about syllabus revision in the past (http://statisticalsage.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/backward-design-and-syllabus-formation/). Please, don’t wait until the end of the summer to make the revisions. Your mind is fresh. You know what worked and what didn’t. If you are unsure how to make improvements, at least by identifying the areas where improvements are needed, you can start looking for new ideas. One of the best places to go (besides this blog, of course) is to colleagues who are teaching applied statistics, even in other departments. By discussing these ideas with each other, you both can benefit.
(5) Plan something new! Now everyone has to admit. We feel great when we get something new. Even a mundane pair of shoes or stockings can make a person feel better. So does trying something new when teaching. So, come up with a new pedagogical technique, completely revise your examples, or change a few activities in the classroom. Whatever you do, please … don’t start your next class doing everything just as you have in the past.
If you are looking for a “new” book and you have enjoyed reading these blogs, consider Kiess and Green (2010) Statistical Concepts for the Behavioral Sciences, 4/e with Pearson.
(6) You might as well have fun. In a previous post, I provided some tips to how to better enjoy the teaching of applied statistics(http://statisticalsage.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/so-you-dont-want-to-teach-stats/).
Even if you don’t like teaching, you can have fun preparing to be the best you can be, and my guess is … you may even find yourself enjoying some of it.