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#1 Ten questions about this blog

Legend has it that when asked for advice about becoming a successful singer, Frank Sinatra replied: Sing good songs.  My advice for becoming an effective teacher of statistics is similarly succinct: Ask good questions.

In this blog I will present ideas for teaching statistics, based on this three-word teaching philosophy: ask good questions.  Let me pose and answer ten “w” questions about this blog:

  1. Who is the audience?  I am writing this for teachers of statistics, particularly introductory statistics, at all levels.  I hope to present ideas that will be relevant and helpful to high school teachers and two- and four-year college teachers of statistics.  I especially hope that relatively new teachers, and those whose primary training was not in statistics, will find this blog to be beneficial.
  2. What is the content?  This blog will provide ideas for teaching statistics, especially introductory statistics.  Most of the posts will describe activities that you can use in class, or questions that you can use on assessments, to help students learn statistics.  Other posts will feature discussions of what and how to teach in statistics courses.
  3. Who am I?  (Why, thanks for asking!)  I have been teaching statistics, primarily at the introductory level to undergraduate students, for thirty years.  I have taught at both Dickinson College, a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, and in the Statistics Department at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.  I have given more than 100 conference presentations and conducted more than 100 faculty development workshops about teaching statistics.  Click on “about me” if you’d like to read more.
  4. What is the style?  I am aiming for a very conversational style in this blog.  This will not be academic writing by any stretch.  I hope to convey in writing a style that I try to adopt in workshops – speaking directly to other teachers and proposing concrete suggestions for teaching statistics.  I may even try for humor on occasion.
  5. Why should you read this?  Because you’re interested in picking up ideas and activities and questions that you can use for teaching statistics.  I’d like to think that some of my suggestions are worthwhile, and I’m counting on you to identify which ones they are.
  6. Was that one of my attempts at humor?  Well, I suppose so, but please stick around – I can do better.
  7. Where and when will posts appear?  For the next year I plan to post one blog entry per week, most likely on Monday mornings, right here at  You can use the button on the right to sign up as a follower and receive email notifications about new posts.
  8. Will this blog gradually build suspense, like a great novel or movie or television series, until a climactic moment at which the secret to successful teaching of statistics will be revealed?  No.  The secret has already been revealed.  In case you missed it, please see the name of this blog and re-read the first and second paragraphs.  In fact, why not, I’ll repeat it again: Ask good questions.  That’s the take-home message.  If I have any wisdom to impart, that’s it.  The rest is just details.  But I’ll do my best to make the details relevant, thought-provoking, and fun.
  9. What makes a question good?  Now that’s an excellent question!  But I am going to respectfully decline to answer at first.  Instead I will provide lots of examples of what I think are good questions for teaching/learning statistics in coming posts.  Then I will try to address this by discerning some general characteristics of good questions from those examples.
  10. Whoa, wait a minute!  Why should you waste your time with such obvious advice as “ask good questions”?  I admit that you’ve probably never been advised to ask bad questions, or not to ask questions at all.  Nevertheless, I don’t think my advice is unhelpful.  I suspect that we teachers spend too much of our most precious commodity – time – on creating presentations for students to hear and writing exposition for them to read.  I think we serve our students’ learning much better by investing our time into crafting good questions that lead students to develop and deepen their understanding of what we want them to learn.  Please join me as I try to persuade you of this in coming posts.
8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks, Allan, for sharing this information with the rest of us. I’ve been a statistician for 30+ years and now an instructor for 6 yrs. I’m trying to get better and better at the teaching part and look forward to following your blog.


    August 6, 2019
  2. BringData #

    Allan, thanks for sharing your insights and ideas. I spent 30+ years as a statistician and have now been teaching for 6 years. I love teaching statistics, but I want to keep improving and being more effective at reaching my students and helping them think more critically about the material. I look forward to following your blog posts.


    August 6, 2019
  3. Suzy Manuela Prajea (Dr.P) #

    Reblogged this on #Prajea PB-L #STEM #Math and commented:
    One of my favorite blogs!


    November 13, 2020

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