Category Archives: Statistics Syllabus

A review of tips for teaching applied statistics from Statistical Sage

Hello All,

Another semester is about to start. To help people who are new to Statistical Sage or even for those of you who visit here often, I thought it helpful to review some key prior postings on the teaching of applied statistics. I have included tips along with the links to the posts from Statistical Sage.

  1. A great class has to start with a great syllabus.
  2. Even for those of you who don’t want to teach applied statistics, you can still do a great job and even have fun doing it.
  3. Great ideas can come from anywhere … so keep on the look out. (and please share them with us when you have them). 
  4. Don’t forget to apply the concepts of Cognitive Development to the classroom.
  5. Talk with (or read) others who have experience in teaching applied statistics; they can serve as a wealth of knowledge and help you to minimize errors and maximize learning (both yours and your students).
  6. Applied statistics is more than just calculations. It is important that you get students thinking about statistics.
  7. Make sure to start that first class out, right!
  8. Don’t forget to have fun teaching!!!

I hope that everyone has a very productive fall semester, and that students’ excuses are few and class attendance is high!



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Filed under Engaging students, Introduction, Pedagogy, Statistics Syllabus

So, you don’t want to teach stats …

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  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,  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 .

(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) 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, 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!


Filed under Core Concepts, Curriculum, Engaging students, Homework/ Assignments, Pedagogy, Statistics Syllabus, Text books

“Backward Design” and Syllabus Formation

For the past several years, I’ve been asked to provide a talk to new faculty at ESU on how to formulate a syllabus. This year, even though we have a hiring freeze at our university there will be a couple of new faculty members whom I will get to talk to about this important skill to help in meeting students needs. Whether you are new to teaching Applied Statistics or have been teaching applied statistics for several semester, we all need to take a look at our syllabus from time to time and see what we are communicating to students and if it is working.

In a previous blog, I talked about what to consider in an Applied Statistics syllabus This link includes important information on what to include in a syllabus and how it impacts students. Of course, this is in addition to whatever requirements your department may have. (And for New Professors or professors new to teaching applied statistics … even if you don’t use it, please ask for copies of other professors’ syllabi, particularly if they have taught the classes you have, and make it a point to thank them for anything you may have “learned” from their “well-crafted syllabus.” … you do not want to be that new guy/gal who acts like he or she know it all, even if you are THE expect in Applied Statistics and you have the misfortune of working with dolts!)

I also want to encourage people to think about the concept of “Backward Design” when creating your syllabus (

Backward design has a series of steps that assists faculty in developing a syllabus that increase student learning. (Yes, technically, it has three, but I’ve pulled apart two of the steps, resulting in 5 steps).

Step #1: Identifying what you want  your students to know … truly know when they leave your class

Step #2: Consider, how will you know when they get there … in other words, what assignments or other forms of assessment are going to be needed (both formal and informal) to assure your students have mastered the material and skills for which you design the class

Step #3: Identify, where are the students’ skill  and knowledge sets currently

Step #4: Specify what steps will need to be taken to so your students can achieve your desired goals

Step #5: Design your syllabus to take into account your goals, assessment,  your students, and the steps needed to help your students reach their goals

Notice, you do not start with the book, and go from Chapter 1, 2, 3, etc. In designing a class … keep your “eye on the prize.”

I have included a model of what I do for my Quantitative Psychology class. I have followed the principles of “Backward Design” when forming this syllabus, and any of the tips listed in the formation of the syllabus or in “Bonnie and Hal’s 5 Tips for Teaching Statistics” are also included in the formation of this syllabus. PSY 201 syllabus fall 2011 If you do use anything from my syllabus, please just let me know.

Right before the start of the new school year is always an exciting time. I hope you enjoy this time as you review your syllabus and set your course for an exceptional school year!


Filed under Statistics Syllabus