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Goals of Your Introductory Statistics Course
Posted:
Jun 14, 1996 10:00 PM


[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 tivelyin 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 yourselfwhat 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 "topicbased" 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 tivitybased course might make a list of statistical topics and then assign various activities to the students in order to cover the topics.
Unfortunately, topicbased 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 (= EdStatL).
(Of course, teachers wishing to use the first of the above two goals must have a welldefined 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, 1920.



