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Presentation 3E2. Statistical Investigations - Drawing it all Together

Flavia Jolliffe (UK)


Presentation Abstract

Statisticians work in many different application areas and need to interact with people whose expertise and backgrounds are different from their own. In educating future statisticians then, it is important to expose students to a wide variety of real problems and to given them experience of a range of communication skills. It is also important to help them to see statistics as a whole rather than as sets of techniques packaged in short and largely independent modules.

The unit Statistical Investigations, attended by students on the postgraduate conversion course in Applied Statistics which has been given at the University of Greenwich in the UK, was designed with these points in mind. This unit is assessed entirely by course-work and accounts for an eighth of the taught part of the course. It aims to integrate the contents of the other units and to show how these relate to professional practice.

Lecturers leading the course have almost complete freedom as to how they run it, constrained only by general guidelines and the current statistical stage of the students. Inevitably the approach taken in any one year has reflected the lecturer's particular interests, but there have also been variations in the rate of delivery and the unit's position within the structure of the whole course.

This paper reflects on the author's approach to teaching the unit to a small group of part-time students. The various activities and assessment tasks forming its content included extensive use of statistical packages analysing moderately complex data sets, world wide web searches, training in consultancy skills, reading and discussion of applied statistics papers, case studies, and guidance on conducting a project. Although mainly an experiential unit in which students were given some responsibility for their own learning, a small number of lectures extending the students' knowledge and awareness of the range of tools available in a statistician's work-box was given. The emphasis throughout was on real data and real problems.

At the end of the unit the students were asked to comment in detail on each activity forming its content, and the paper will relate these evaluations to the author's own opinion as to how successful the unit was in meeting its aims. Both the students' and the author's views of the unit will be considered in the context of how students learn statistics, and recommendations made as to how to run a unit of this nature.


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