When will they see the most important bit?

For the past two years, I’ve been involved in the design and teaching of the statistics curriculum to the 3rd year medical students, and I have to say it’s been very rewarding. Most of my job involves helping students who have been taught by someone else somewhere else and who haven’t had the best experience of it, but with this project I’ve been able to make their actual experience of the teaching better in the first place. (Not that I would trade in helping all the other students, of course!)

But it hasn’t been without its challenges, the main one being that I only get seven lectures to teach them the stats. That’s seven periods of 50 minutes with no other contact with the students, as opposed to the 24-36 lectures, 10-12 tutorials, 10-12 computer practicals and 5-10 assignments you get in a traditional stats course.

Needless to say, I have had to make some big decisions about what I  choose to tell them and what I choose not to tell them. I have had to think hard about what is the most important thing I could possibly tell them about stats and choose to say only that and do it well. They may never get another chance to hear that information, so I need to make sure they get it now.

“Wow, David,” you must be thinking, “that must be tough. I’m so glad I do have 60 hours of time with my students.”

But do you really have 60 hours of time with your students? What if they work full time and can’t come to any of the tutes or pracs? What if they had an accident and suddenly couldn’t come to the rest of the course? What if you got sick and couldn’t teach them any more? What if there was an earthquake and your university was closed for the rest of the year? What if they simply decided they weren’t going to come any more? (The med students are famous for this last one.)

We really don’t know how long we’ve got with them, so it seems to me that we should all seize the day and tell them the most important bits now, before it’s too late. If you get longer with them, then be grateful you can go into more detail, but even if you don’t, you’ll know they’ve come away with something good.

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One Response

  1. joleen hall says:

    I think one of the benefits those students get is you as their teacher. You explain concepts and techniques in a way that opens students up to learning. As an aspiring teacher I will aim to be half as good as you at teaching my students and making maths fun, as there is nothing like the real thing. I hope the uni values you as an educator as much as the students do.

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