January 02, 2014

36-350, Fall 2013: Self-Evaluation and Lessons Learned (Introduction to Statistical Computing)

This was not one of my better performances as a teacher.

I felt disorganized and unmotivated, which is a bit perverse, since it's the third time I've taught the class, and I know the material very well by now. The labs were too long, and my attempts to shove the excess parts of the labs into revised homework assignments did not go over very well. The final projects were decent, but on average not as good as the previous two years.

I have two ideas about what went wrong. One is of course about kids these days (i.e., blaming the victims), and the other is about my own defects of character.

First, in retrospect, previous iterations of the course benefited from the fact that there hadn't been an undergraduate course here in statistical computing. This meant there was a large pool of advanced statistics majors who wanted to take it, but already knew a lot of the background materials and skills; the modal student was also more academically mature generally. That supply of over-trained students is now exhausted, and it's not coming back either — the class is going to become a requirement for the statistics major. (As it should.) So I need to adjust my expectations of what they know and can do on their own downward in a major way. More exactly, if I want them to know how to do something, I have to make sure I teach it to them, and cut other things from the curriculum to make room. This, I signally failed to do.

Second, I think the fact that this was the third time I have taught basically the same content was in fact part of the problem. It made me feel too familiar with everything, and gave me an excuse for not working on devising new material up until the last moment, which meant I didn't have everything at my finger's ends, and frankly I wasn't as excited about it either.

Putting these together suggests that a better idea for next time would be something like the following.

All of this will be a lot of work for me, but that's part of the point. Hopefully, I will make the time to do this, and it will help.

Introduction to Statistical Computing

Posted at January 02, 2014 18:01 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth