New Twist on Statistics Education

Kirk Anderson recently mentioned a new course on the American Statistical Association Statistical Education group, Statistics in the Media

“The focus will be on how statistics are reported in the media. Students will be asked to read news stories and critically evaluate the conclusions made, recognizing when assertions are and are not supported by evidence. “

Unfortunately, I couldn’t help with his request for a recommended textbook – I teach doctoral students who need to conduct their own research – but I think the concept of such a course for undergraduates is brilliant.

Statistics is everywhere and applied in every setting. In the vast majority of universities, though, we teach introductory statistics as if everyone was going to become a statistician. Imagine if instead of teaching students how to use Office or OpenOffice, every student was required to take a course that covered regular expressions, functions and local and global name space (those concepts are fundamental, right?)

Almost no one would use computers and there would be a huge shortage of people who could run anything on a spreadsheet.

My only suggestion for improvement would be that instead of “an algebra-based introductory statistics pre-requisite” that they are planning, I’d teach one course (maybe for more credits) that included the introductory statistics, rather than have it as a separate course.

brownies - mm

So, 10 brownie points and a cookie for Grand Valley State University in Michigan for innovation in statistics education. (Admit it, now you’re hungry.)

Shameless plug: For another take on a different view on statistics education, you can go to the session, Interview with the Vampire Researcher at the Hilton Bayfront, Sapphire D from 10:30 – noon on Thursday, August 2, part of the Joint Statistical Meetings in San Diego



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  1. I’ve been using your suggestion for years. I actually have my students write 2 papers where they find a media report of a study and the study themselves, read both and compare. The idea is to show them the kind of things that the media skips. I also start each class talking about statistics that have popped up in the news.

    I swear, that kind of literacy and critical thinking needs to be taught in high school. I’ve met grad students who don’t have it, and in many ways the lack of those skills is why the politicians get away with half the crap they get away with these days.

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