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Topic: Goals of Your Introductory Statistics Course
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Donald Macnaughton

Posts: 8
Registered: 12/6/04
Goals of Your Introductory Statistics Course
Posted: Jun 14, 1996 10:00 PM
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[I've posted this message to the sci.stat.edu newsgroup and to
four mail lists where there may be interest. Apologies to re-
cipients who receive multiple copies.]

All introductory statistics courses should have carefully stated
goals (Hogg 1990) because
- goals enable a teacher to evaluate course material most effec-
tively--in terms of how well the material satisfies the goals,
and
- if the goals of two or more prospective course approaches are
clearly stated, it is easier for a teacher to compare the ap-
proaches, so as to choose the best approach.

Ask yourself--what are the goals of the introductory statistics
course that you teach, or what were the goals of an introductory
statistics course that you have taken?

Many introductory statistics courses use what can be called
"topic-based" goals. A teacher using such goals simply specifies
a list of statistical topics to be covered. For example, a
teacher of a traditional introductory course might aim to cover
the topics of probability theory, distribution theory, point and
interval estimation, and so on. Similarly, a teacher of an ac-
tivity-based course might make a list of statistical topics and
then assign various activities to the students in order to cover
the topics.

Unfortunately, topic-based goals have a serious drawback: By em-
phasizing statistical topics, the goals usually *fail* to empha-
size what is essential, which I believe is
to help students appreciate the vital role of the field
of statistics in empirical research.
I maintain that unless students learn to understand and appreci-
ate the role, any knowledge they gain of statistical topics will
be both of little interest to them, and of little use.

To address this drawback, I propose that the goals of an intro-
ductory statistics course should be
1. to give students a lasting appreciation of the vital role of
the field of statistics in empirical research, and
2. to teach students how to use standard statistical methods in
empirical research.
I maintain that the above two goals are optimal. I invite read-
ers who disagree to present their views in the sci.stat.edu
UseNet newsgroup (= EdStat-L).

(Of course, teachers wishing to use the first of the above two
goals must have a well-defined approach to teaching the *role* of
the field of statistics. I shall present some thoughts about how
to present the role of statistics to students in a later post-
ing.)

The above points are part of a broader discussion of an approach
to the introductory course available at

http://www.hookup.net/~donmac

-----------------------------------------------------------
Donald B. Macnaughton MatStat Research Consulting Inc.
donmac@hookup.net Toronto, Canada
Joint Statistical Mtgs, Session 201, Tuesday August 6, 2 PM
-----------------------------------------------------------


REFERENCE
Hogg, R. V. (1990), "Statisticians Gather to Discuss Statistical
Education," _Amstat News,_ Number 169, November 1990, 19-20.








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