Probably like many of you, I really enjoy attending conferences like APS or EPA. One of my favorite conferences, and I don’t even know if they still have it, was the Armadillo Conference held in Texas. That was a neat bunch of individuals.
One of the commonalities I notice when I attend conferences like EPA is that though there is a core group of individuals who seem very interested in keeping their skills honed in the teaching of statistics, others seem to almost want to dismiss students ability to even master this material. I am sorry to say I used to be one of those dismissive faculty, I just didn’t know it. I remember once saying to a person who was teaching statistics, very matter of fact, that students recalled very little of that information when they hit research methods, a course that followed and had statistics as a prerequisite. She was devastated, and set to work with intensity to find a way to get her students to master the material not just for the short-term, but for the long-term. This interaction had a lasting impact on me, as I started to wonder what biases for student learning I may have been harboring. And could my implicit beliefs that students really weren’t capable of learning statistics well impacting how I was teaching?
During my last EPA visit in Brooklyn (March 2010), I attended a great workshop on hand-on activities to use with the teaching of statistics. Every one of the presenters, however, said the same thing, which I will paraphrase. If we want students to master the material of statistics and truly commit it to long-term memory, we have to approach it from a conceptual perspective. (Conceptual vs. computation approaches to teaching statistics will be a blog for a future date). I would say that I firmly believe in this statement as well. However, each person, one after the other stated … there are NO undergraduate statistics books that take a conceptual approach while maintaining academic rigor. One after the other, as I heard them utter these words, I was left wondering … what do I do, do I tell them about Statistical Concepts for the Behavioral Sciences, 4/e? If I do, won’t it seem like I’m “hawking my wares?” So I sat quietly. As we get this blog going, and we use the month of July for introductions and laying the ground work, it seems reasonable for me to tell you, if you are looking for a place to develop your teaching skills in statistics, this is the right place. If you think we are going to encourage you to “dumb down” your work or decrease the expectations you hold for your students, it is probably the wrong place. If, however, you want to know the secret to helping students to learn the material, mastering it for long-term use (the key is grounding all that you do in the concepts of statistics) this blog will help you to do just that. We’ll point you to important resources, too, including http://www.pearsonhighered.com/product?ISBN=0205626246 the web site for you to take a closer look at a textbook dedicated to assuring students, even reluctant ones with weak math backgrounds, become successful students of statistics. We welcome comments from anyone who is using Statistical Concepts for the Behavioral Sciences, 4/e.