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Topic: standard computer output
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Paul Velleman

Posts: 1,607
Registered: 12/6/04
standard computer output
Posted: Sep 13, 1996 11:48 AM
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I agree with Peter Bruce that resampling methods can be valuable for
teaching and are valuable in practice. However, they do raise a thorny
issue for teachers. Until we see them appearing in published research, I
don't think we can afford to base introductory courses on them. David Moore
recently made the same argument against basing the introductory course on
Bayseian methods (at a discussion at the August ASA meeting). I would be
similarly opposed to that or to basing it on nonparametric methods or any
other specialized approach.
Surveys of what statistics methods are actually used in print and in
practice are quite clear; students need to know how to display data, how to
summarize the patterns (and exceptions!) they see, and how to draw
(frequentist-based) inferences with t-based intervals and tests for
conclusions about means, differences between (and among) means, and
regression slopes. They need to see contingency tables and understand
chi-square, but may not need conditional probability for this.
With these skills, students could read 90% of the statistics in most
medical, business, social science, and science publications. (They'll still
need to learn the science, of course.)
There is a chicken and egg problem here; hard to change the ways of the
world if we don't train students to new ways. But I can't support making
our students into the new breed of chickens -- at least until things settle
down enough to know which breed they should be.

We have actually seen such a change. The AP course is quite modern
compared to the way statistics was taught even a decade ago (and compared
to many texts still widely used.) The emphasis on graphics, on
understanding, and on data exploration was considered radical when I
started teaching it in the 1970's. However, it is now quite standard in
practice. (Just read the ads for the major statistics packages to see what
they emphasize.) I think we need to make future changes in our teaching in
much the same way.

-- Paul Velleman

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