Here at Statistical Sage, though we have well over 100 followers from all over the world, most of our viewers seem to arrive to us through Internet searchers. I always enjoy looking at the different terms people are using, and, in fact, plan on analyzing those terms to gain insight into the challenges people may be having in teaching applied statistics.
However, one search term caught my attention recently … “I don’t want to teach stats.”
I certainly understand about not wanting to teach certain classes we end up getting assigned to teach. I am sure I’m not alone in sighing, at least on occasion, when seeing what classes I will be teaching (or more importantly, what classes I won’t be teaching) for future semesters, but I have to admit, I have never thought “I don’t want to teach stats.”
If I were to talk to an individual who was “stuck” teaching statistics, here are the tips I would provide to them to help them through in teaching this class.
(1) Never let your students know your lack of desire in teaching this class.
Students will be coming to your class not wanting to take it. You can’t give them additional reason as to why they are right, particularly when applied statistics is so critical for their future professional and graduate student success.
(2) Don’t reinvent the wheel. Get the a syllabus from someone who has been successful in teaching the course. You can obtain a copy of a syllabus and tips on syllabi formation from a prior posting,
By the end of 2012, APA’s Division 2 Task Forces on Statistical Literacy will have recommendations for the teaching of applied statistics in psychology. This group will be providing to everyone a list of student learning outcomes, a bibliography of resources, a list of Best Practices in Teaching for each student learning outcome, and a detailed outline of assessment practices. As this information becomes available, I will post it here.
(3) Seek out from others who have taught this class the potential pit falls, and be prepared to address problems before they become problems. Understanding issues like the most critical concepts https://statisticalsage.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/core-statistical-concepts/ and activities to help students master them can help you help your students before real challenges erupt. Though this blog is filled with such information, I recommend you start with Hal and Bonnie’s Five Tips to Teaching Applied Statistics,
https://statisticalsage.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/new-to-the-blog-follow-bonnie-and-hals-five-tips-to-teaching-applied-statistics/. Or you can learn from others who are successful in your discipline and apply the process of their success to the process of your success as a teacher of statistics https://statisticalsage.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/learning-from-steve-jobs/ .
(4) Get a book that students find easy to read and understand that comes with it a set of homework problems (both in and out of the textbook). Of course, my favorite applied statistics book is Kiess and Green (2010) http://www.pearsonhighered.com/product?ISBN=0205626246. In addition to it coming with a detailed instructor’s manual, with specific classroom activities, chapter outline, and student outcomes, it also has about 5 homework assignments per chapter, and several problems in the textbook for students to use, http://www.pearsonhighered.com/product?ISBN=0205626246#tabbed. A great book will make teaching applied statistics easier.
(5) You are going to need to give examples in class of studies that use statistics. Have fun with it, and use studies YOU find interesting. If you find it interesting, it will be bound to show to the students, and talk about your own research or areas where statistics have been applied in your life. Given the example will take up about 15 minutes of each and every (50 minute) class, you can be guaranteed of at least part of every class time being interesting to you. If you are interested in the topics you are talking about, your students will be excited about coming to class to listen to what you have to say next, that enthusiasm will rub off on you, the professor, in a nice, circular, and upward lifting manner.
(6) Chances are you are going to try to get out of having to teach statistics in the future. And let’s face it, you are probably just one new hire away from having your wishes fulfilled. However, I still encourage you to read up on pedagogy, because, after all … the economy is bad, and you may be at the bottom of that seniority pile for longer than you expected, as the senior faculty who should have retired years ago no longer can do so thanks decreases in their retirement funds. If you don’t want to invest a great deal of time in the study of pedagogy, that’s why StatisticalSage is here … for you, as, after all … you may be “stuck” teaching applied statistics, but you still cared enough to google “I don’t want to teach stats,” and you cared enough to read a few entries here. That means, you do care.
There are lots of things I don’t want to do … clean out my refrigerator, go for my annual check up with the doctor, go to the dentist for a teeth cleaning, and yet … I do it. And you can teach stats well, too, and who knows … maybe you’ll even like it, a little.
Please let me know how your semester turns out!