Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Statistics Education Seminar presented by Xiao-Li Meng!

Xiao-Li Meng (Department of Statistics, Harvard University) gave a talk last Friday, October 28, at the QME Colloquia Series at the University of Minnesota.

Professor Meng and his "Happy Team" on the opening day of Stat 105.
Cassandra Wolos, Kari Lock, Xiao-Li Meng, Yves Chretien, and Paul Edlefsen.
Photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard News Office.

Title: Statistical Education and Educating Statisticians: Producing Wine Connoisseurs and Master Winemakers

Abstract: The distinction between statistical education and educating statisticians is of particular importance at the pre-graduate school level. In recent years we have taken a broader view of statistical education for Harvard’s undergraduates, by shifting the focus  from preparing a few to pursue Ph.D. level quantitative studies to helping many  gain a basic appreciation of statistical argument and insight,  as a part of their liberal arts critical thinking training and experience.  Intriguingly, the journey, guided by the philosophy that one can become a wine connoisseur without ever knowing how to make wine, apparently has led us to produce many more future winemakers than when we focused only on producing a vintage.  At the Ph.D. level, our focus has always been to produce the best winemakers, to take the wine analogy further, but true expert winemakers need to master far more than merely the chemical process of fermenting juice into alcohol, especially with ever increasing competition and demand.  We therefore introduced a Professional Development Curriculum (PDC) parallel to the usual course curriculum, starting  from “Stat 303: The Art and Practice of Teaching Statistics,” a required one-year course for all entering Ph.D.s, aiming at both producing well trained teaching fellows for undergraduate courses and effective statistical communicators in general.  This talk shares a number of stories from our intoxicating journey and experiments, including a Riesling randomized trial conducted for Stat 105: Real-Life Statistics: Your Chance for Happiness (or Misery) to assess the single most influential  factor in students’ ability to judge wine quality (once they are over 21).

Read more at http://www.stat.harvard.edu/Academics/invitation_chair_txt.html

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