This section contains brief reflections on the first US Conference On Teaching Statistics, held in May 2005 at OSU.
Newsletter for the Section on Statistical Education
Volume 11, Number 1 (Winter 2006)
1. USCOTS -- Dream Come True!
Deborah Rumsey, USCOTS Program Chair
Two years ago having a national level conference on teaching statistics was just a dream, and that dream has now come true with the tremendous success of the first USCOTS. Over 300 people attended the conference, all eager to share ideas and learn, and committed to helping build connections between all of us who teach statistics. The program included an all-star line up, the facilities were top notch, and the atmosphere was electric. Hats off to all those who participated from all over the country, and the world; from high schools, two year colleges, and research institutions.
One of the many highlights of the conference was the banquet and awards night on Friday night, where CAUSE gave George Cobb the first USCOTS Lifetime Achievement Award for Statistics Education. Congratulations, George, and congratulations to all who participated in USCOTS.
Check out the videos, handouts, photos, highlights and resources from the conference, all available on our website at http://www.causeweb.org/uscots.
See you all in Columbus, Ohio for USCOTS 07! We are already working on it!
2. Reflections on USCOTS
Kudos to Deb Rumsey, Jackie Miller, Dennis Pearl, and their team for putting on such a great conference. I share the sentiment expressed by many others that every talk I heard was outstanding. A highlight for me was Doug Andrews’ terrific breakout session on writing in statistics classes. Starting in the fall, all sections of Stat I at Meredith College will be designated as writing-intensive, and Doug provided materials I can use immediately. Attending USCOTS with a colleague who is a mathematician allowed me to view our stat ed community through new eyes -- I feel fortunate to have colleagues who are so collegial, so creative, and so dedicated to teaching statistics.
3. Reflections on USCOTS
I came away from the first USCOTS with two thought-provoking ideas. Using a basketball metaphor, Roxy Peck challenged us to think of whether we are teaching students to be good spectators, referees, or players. I was immediately struck with an ethical dilemma: If one class teaches students to be spectators and another teaches them to be players, is it ethical to do a comparative study of seeing how well they actually play basketball? The second issue I am currently wrestling with is George Cobb's idea of revamping the introductory statistics curriculum to maximize the power of technology to teach permutation tests. This is a paradigm-shifting idea and I am very curious to see what the "state of the art" in introductory statistics is at USCOTS V in ten years.
4. My impressions of USCOTS
When I think of USCOTS many things come to mind. The first is people. I got to see many old friends at the conference and enjoyed catching up with them, but I think it was the new friends that I made that made such a big difference for me. With over 300 people in attendance, the conference illustrated that those who want to teach statistics well are neither a small minority nor are they located only in one kind of setting. Attendees came from research universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, high schools and industry. The number of graduate students who attended was also surprising. I think this is a sign that the desire to teach well is with many of us from the beginning. The second aspect of the conference that struck me was the quality. Many times during conferences I find myself with gaps during which there are no talks that I care to see. This was definitely not the case at USCOTS. During every time slot there were two or perhaps three breakout sessions that I really wanted to attend. I feel that I am reasonably up to date with the literature in statistics education and I can honestly say that I got something good out of every session that I attended. Not only were the ideas presented very interesting but also the presentation of these ideas was excellent. I am very happy to have been part of USCOTS. I hope that it continues in the future.
5. What I Took Away From USCOTS 2005
The two things that impressed me the most at USCOTS were: 1) the proposed changes to the Introductory Statistics curriculum, and 2) the exposing of the gap existing between what we as teachers think we are disseminating to our students and what our students are actually receiving.
George Cobb's proposed changes to the Introductory Statistics curriculum are drastic and at the same time seem to make a lot of sense. In many ways it could easily make Intro Stat more effective, more attainable and more teachable even though it represents a major break from what has been done in the past. George's proposal needs serious consideration.
Roxy Peck's message overviewed the gap between what is said or shown, and what is heard or seen, and her gorilla dramatically illustrated this single greatest problem in the world of education. Both teacher and student miss seeing the gorilla! In their session "Guidelines for Teaching and Learning Statistics", Gary Kadar and Christine Franklin, via a mini-workshop, put their finger right on some of the little subtleties that are these gaps. After 30+ years of teaching I have a new appreciation for the student who works hard and still just doesn't get it; perhaps I just learned about the real problem. I can honestly say that, after participating in this session, I believe every statistics teacher would benefit greatly from participating in a full workshop of this nature.
6. Reflections on USCOTS
I have seen lots of changes in statistics education over the past 25 years, but most have been modest, evolutionary changes. With the current omnipresence of data, availability of powerful and friendly technology, and increasing importance of statistical thinking, we may be on the verge of revolutionary change. USCOTS, with its creative, energetic, eager, excited and exciting participants, may well have ushered in that new era!
7. Reflections on USCOTS
The strongest impression I took away from USCOTS was what a lot of good people we have working in statistics education. Bringing everyone together for a focused meeting reinforced the value of making personal connections and sharing ideas with others who care about improving the teaching of statistics. The enthusiasm of all participants, especially in the spotlight sessions, was invigorating. In many ways the USCOTS experience was like “drinking from a fire hose” - so many interesting talks, breakouts and spotlights; so many stimulating conversations with lots of different colleagues during breaks, receptions and meals, so many ideas to consider trying next semester, so many questions to ponder before that over the summer, especially “How do we avoid missing the gorilla?” and “What if the t-test is NOT the center of the statistical universe?”
8. Reflections on USCOTS
I found the first USCOTS to be very worthwhile. It was great for so many people interested in the teaching of statistics to get together to share ideas. I found George Cobb's after-dinner comments to be particularly thought-provoking. George suggested that we statistics educators may be playing the role of Ptolemy in putting the t-test at the center of our introductory curriculum, instead of endorsing Fisher's Copernican view of randomization tests as the sun around which the curriculum should revolve. I was also struck by the extensive interest in conducting statistics education research, and I hope that one result of the conference will be increased activity and stronger collaborations in that area. I thank and commend Deb Rumsey and the others at Ohio State for organizing and running an outstanding conference.
9. Reactions to USCOTS
Carol Joyce Blumberg
When we arrived in Columbus, we were met at the airport by a Lincoln Town Car from the Blackwell Hotel (the conference hotel). As one of my colleagues said, "How classy." The phrase "How classy" describes the entire three day conference. The hotel and adjoining conference center were very nice and user-friendly. The hotel employees were friendly and went out of their way to help you. The Ohio State University campus was a wonderful setting. It is a very pleasant and pretty campus. Even for me as a graduate of The University of Michigan and of Michigan State University, seeing the redone football stadium was awesome.
Upon opening the wonderful Resource Notebook that the conference organizers put together, one of the first things I noticed was that I hardly knew any of the people registered for the conference. These attendees (most of who were new to statistics education as a field) were a varied and intelligent group of people. Their enthusiasm and youth (many of them were graduate students or beginning Assistant Professors) bodes well for the future of the field of statistics education.
All of the sessions I attended were excellent in terms of presentation style and content. I learned a lot and gained many new ideas to implement in my courses. My reaction was typical of those attending. I heard the comment several times from people that this was one of the best conferences they had ever attended, even from senior statistics educators. The most telling comment I heard was that when attending a conference you are excited if 50% of the sessions you attend are worthwhile and that this conference was an outlier having 100% of the sessions being worthwhile.
There was also plenty of time for mingling and talking to people one-on-one or in small groups either during the three Spotlight sessions where there were approximately 90 posters on display or during the breaks between sessions. I also liked that all meals were included in the conference fee of only $125.00 thanks to grants from the ASA and The Ohio State University and five publishers. The financial support and presence of the publishers (and their displays of textbooks and other teaching materials) added value to the conference.
As a recently retired member of the Executive Committee of the International Association for Statistical Education (IASE), I would like to end my comments with a plug for the International Conference on Teaching Statistics (ICOTS) to be held in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil from July 2 to 7, 2006. It is held every four years and was started in 1982 and so is the parent of the national conferences on teaching statistics. I urge anyone reading this article to submit a contributed paper, poster, or demonstration. The deadlines for submission of abstracts for contributed papers are September 1, 2005 (if you want your paper to be refereed) and December 1, 2005 (if you do not want your paper refereed). The deadline for submission of abstracts for posters, demonstrations, forums and special sessions is February 1, 2006. For more information go to http://www.maths.otago.ac.nz/icots7/icots7.php.
10. Reflections on USCOTS
Thanks for the opportunity to share my impressions of USCOTS-1. The conference participants were the most enthusiastic, caring, sharing group I have ever encountered at any meeting. The format for the conference with plenary, breakout, and spotlight sessions allowed both organized and informal interaction among participants to flourish. I came away from USCOTS-1 with new knowledge, energy and commitment to teaching. My sincere thanks to all involved.
11. Reflections on USCOTS
All of the plenary speakers were thought provoking. All of the breakout sessions were lively interactions of participants and presenters, and there was a great deal of excitement in the spotlight sessions as participants were genuinely thrilled to be sharing their work with others. High quality, accessible, and usable information was everywhere. But we can not rest with this apparent success. To maximize the impact of the first USCOTS, we need to build an infrastructure that takes the ideas and materials from the conference and brings them to a wider audience, demonstrates their value in research projects, and instills them in statistics classrooms nationwide. People came to USCOTS to exchange ideas about teaching -- this exchange should now move into full swing with follow-up newsletters, on-line forums, workshops, and of course the next capstone experience: USCOTS 2007.
12. Reflections on USCOTS
Every once in a while you attend an event that makes you proud to be a statistical educator and USCOTS was one of those events for me. Hearing, thinking, and talking about statistical education in the next century with talented teachers and leaders from across the country made for an exciting conference. Of course, there are plenty of challenges ahead of us, but the enthusiasm, excitement, and dedication I witnessed at this conference were amazing.
13. Reflections on USCOTS
It was inspiring to see the diversity of statistics educators at this conference wanting to improve the delivery of statistics at the K-16 level. The keynotes presentations, breakout sessions, and spotlight sessions were all outstanding. I came away with many new fresh ideas and a sense of rejuvenation for continuing my work as a statistics educator.
14. Reflections on USCOTS
More than any other event I have attended, the USCOTS conference forced me to think harder about what my statistics courses will look like in the future and to think less about what my courses have looked like in the past.