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November 13, 2005

Graduate students are cool.

The sign of a good teacher is being able to convey the importance of their subject in a manner that engages their audience, making them walk away knowing (not just believing) that they've learned something valuable and novel, and wondering what other interesting things may lay down the path just revealed to them. I like to call this the "Wow"-factor, and it's what gets people engaged in a subject, whether they are just beginning their intellectual journey or have worn through several pairs of shoes already (although, probably for different reasons and in different ways).

The Value of Control Groups in Causal Inference (and Breakfast Cereal) by Gary King of The Social Science Statistics Blog, which I may have to add to my regular list now. King describes a great way to teach a fundamentally important piece of knowledge - the importance of a null-model (or a control group).

A few years ago, I taught the following lesson in my daughter's kindergarden class and my graduate methods class in the same week. It worked pretty well in both. Anyone who has a kid in kindergarten, some good graduate students, or both, might want to try this. It was especially fun for the instructor.

To start, I hold up some nails and ask "does everyone likes to eat nails?" The kindergarten kids scream, "Nooooooo." The graduate students say "No," trying to look cool. I say I'm going to convince them otherwise.

King also recommends Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks for those of us interested in more compelling demos to dislodge our students from their cynicism.

posted November 13, 2005 04:29 AM in Humor | permalink