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Notes (to Myself) On Starting Teaching February 4, 2010

Posted by Wilz in Education, Personal, Teaching.

I taught my first 3 hours of class as a lecturer this week. Writing this entry as much to myself as to my readers.

I am teaching “Introduction to Computing Statistics”, Foundation (fresh school leaver) level. It is quite a simple subject, and it’s very easy to quickly cover the whole syllabus.

The first thing I found when teaching is that it’s easy to talk, but it’s hard to have students sustain interest/attention. It’s easy to grab their interest momentarily, but it’s hard to figure out if they are understanding what you are saying.

The prevailing question in my mind as I speak in front of the class is – do they get what I am saying? Do they understand why I ask them the questions I ask them? It is in fact frustrating as it is constantly in my mind, and sticking all kinds of doubts in there. I believe it is healthy however, for if I ever lose interest in this question, I would’ve stopped being effective as an educator.

In my very first class, one of the first things I found myself doing (not planned) was to put the textbook on the visualizer (camera – projector thing), turn to the first chapter where the definition of statistics is, read it out loud, and say, “That’s all rubbish to you isn’t it?” In retrospect, I always wanted to do that! Ahahaha!!!

I hope I successfully discussed statistics as it relates to the real world in my first 3 hours. Trying hard to find links for the remaining VERY dry chapters.

I am a boring old behavioral lecturer this week (and possibly this trimester) – no interesting methodologies I believe in employed so far, mainly because I don’t really dare to buck what is considered the norm without first getting my ears wet. A bit disappointed at myself, and reminder to self – don’t forget to start!

Two (I hope) interesting things:

I challenged my students to find me the mathematical proof that will allow me to estimate a student’s attendance accurately (within certain errors) if I were to only sample each student’s attendance a few times rather than take their attendance every lecture. It should be possible with the math I am going to teach them. In retrospect, it seems a bit too easy haha.

I discussed degrees of freedom, unbiased estimators, and advanced statistical proofs with them on an intuitive, non-mathematical level when asking them why they think sample variance calculations divide by (n-1) rather than (n) as in the population variance calculations. Told them my own conclusions and the limitations of my own knowledge on the matter, but encouraged those interested to find out more.

My conclusions? Teaching isn’t all fun, but I enjoy it!



1. lee - February 5, 2010

when i went to cyber … gonna sneak in to your lecture and listen

2. alex - February 9, 2010

Probably the first statistic introduction that did not make any reference to coin toss and dice.

It seems students will finally learn something this time around.

3. Benedon - February 9, 2010

Do you feel refreshed after coming out of ur first class? .. or was it just “eh what the hell, pft..”

4. Wilz - February 9, 2010

Neither. I felt ‘challenged’ because I have thought hard on how to make my subject interesting on the very first day, and I had to deliver on that promise every class thereafter. I guess that translate to excitement as well.

On day 1, I showed them a video of Professor Arthur Benjamin performing Mathemagic, and a follow up short video of him talking about how statistics should be more important than calculus as the top of the mathematical education chain. And when the videos finished, I told them, “I showed you the first video so that you’ll admire and respect the man, and once that happens you’ll believe everything he says, so when I showed you the second video…”

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