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Teaching Stats Yet Again May 22, 2015

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My first summer session statistics course is rushing by. This time I am incorporating clickers into each class. I am hoping that this informal testing and take-home assignments can take the stress out of the course and allow my class to really learn the material. They can make mistakes and learn the math without feeling pressure of maintaining their GPA. I have shifted away from all the online tools moved back to basics. We work on the concepts in class, students to problems after class, and we review at the start of the next class using the clicker from Turning Technologies. We focus on the theories and ideas without becoming distracted by all the available information or the multitude of software packages available. I think it is working well. Essentials-of-Statistics-for-the-Behavioral-Sciences-8th-Edition-Textbooks-Hardcover-65x85

I also changed to Gravetter and Wallnau’s Essential of Statistics for the Behavioural Sciences 8th Ed. This book presents the material as a concept (i.e. why was the procedure developed and how is it used effectively). It does not shy away from the math, but it does give an appendix where students can take a Math Assessment and review material they may need to brush up on before starting the course. This is invaluable as an instructor because I can assume a common ground to start discussions. The book allows students to explore statistical concepts building confidence as they go. The class is almost finished with section 2 and I feel they are ready to start inferential statistics.

Incorporating Practice Tests in Classroom Teaching May 13, 2014

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Cognitive psychology has developed numerous effective teaching techniques. The overwhelming abundance of approaches to classroom teaching means that educators cannot always take the time to sift through relevant research to determine what is feasible for their situation. One technique that has been shown to improve student success but is not always incorporated in classroom teaching is practice testing.

Informal testing that is not linked to assessment takes away the anxiety some students’ feel during a midterm or final exam. Less anxiety has been shown to facilitate learning and give a truer indication of what a student understands rather than just what has been memorize. Also, by requiring students to practice what they have at the end of each section, proactive interference can be diminished. Retrieval practice has also been shown to improve conceptual organization or the practiced material as well as related materials, a phenomenon known as retrieval-induced facilitation. Numerous testing phases also forces students to come to class more often and better prepared to discuss class materials. Finally, it a test after learning a section of material allows students to better understand what was learned during each lecture, which in turn allows better allocation of study time.

Creating dialogue in the classroom allows students to become comfortable with being questioned and questioning material. Each semester it takes a few classes for students to realize that they cannot sit passively absorbing material in my classroom. I have used full slide shows of questions to review material covered in a previous class, a single question at the end of presenting a new concept, or even just an informal discussion during class to test students in the classroom. Students develop confidence with material when they realize that they can answer many of the questions asked in class. Taking time to ask about material covered, gives me a better indication of what exactly students have understood. Ultimately, creating a better environment for learning.

Textbooks and Teaching March 18, 2014

Posted by cherylcan in statistics, Teaching.
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It is that time of year again where I question my choices and review student assessments of my teaching. Ultimately to choose the status quo or a new book for my next course.

I have been using “The Basic Practice of Statistics 6th edition” by Moore, Notz, and Fligner. It is a wonderful reference and covers all the basics. However, it is a math stats book and can be a bit intimidating for my students, some of whom have managed to avoid math and are dreading their statistics course. Once we learn the language of statistics, this book is wonderful. Originally, I chose it for the learning curve exercises that accompanied the textbook on its StatsPortal. I love that they can work through their material and have questions about their issues when they come to class. The facilitation of class discussion works for my teaching style.

Now a number of other publishers offer similar online supports in textbooks that are not quite so dense for the beginner. I also worked with a team on an online book that will be available for free to students. I had hoped to implement it this summer, but my student feedback indicates that the preference is having a hardcopy of their textbook. Back to the publishers I go to review what is available. It is such a balancing act, to make sure they get what they need in a readable format. Ultimately, I will make a choice and life goes on, but the decision usually takes time, and as with any good compromise none of use get exactly what we want.

Free Textbook for my Introductory Statistics Class December 9, 2013

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I have been working with a great team on an Introductory Statistics textbook that is now available for free through OpenStax College. It offers students free textbooks that are peer-reviewed texts written by professional content developers. I am really excited to try this with my next class.

Check out Introductory Statistics

Research time vs. blogging time July 10, 2013

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As all can see by my posts, I am not getting the balance of my research time and writing time quite right. I am amazed by my clients. You are all doing such exciting things. It is such a great way for me to work, being involved in diverse projects and doing research on so many things. I love the work. However, I have not been balancing out my writing time. I am not getting time to work on my own books, or on blogging about research. Today, I am again supposed to be doing research but felt that I must take a couple of minutes to talk about research.

I had an opportunity to attend a public lecture this week, which reminded me that research is not just about doing the work. It is about getting out there and talking about what you have found, why it is interesting, and having spirited debates with colleagues. The best researchers are so good at getting up and explaining the details of their work to the public without talking down to them. It made me excited to be a researcher, and reminded me that one of the things I am really good at is taking complex information and disseminating it. I need hone this skill, so for my next series of posts I am going to get out more to see what is going on locally, nationally, and internationally, and then share it with all of you.

Talk to you again soon.

Getting kids excited about research April 17, 2013

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Chris Hadfield, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) astronaut, is doing it right when it comes to getting us all excited about space. I follow him on twitter, where he updates us on what is going on. I love that we can follow what he is doing, and that he takes time out from his research and other work to speak with school children When a school from PEI had their turn, it was on the news here for days. Even the kids that were not part of that school, my own included, were talking about space exploration. Now he has taken it a step further by performing a simple science experiment designed by grade 10 students, Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner. It is an amazing way to get people excited about experiments.

My Favourite Personal Research – February Trip South March 7, 2013

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February flew by, but better late then never here is what I was wrapped up in researching. My husband and I have taken a southern vacation ten times in the last eleven years. Usually we go in February so I spend the months prior searching for a great vacation spot.

My first discussion determined the plan (what we need in a spot), and of course the budget. Once you determine these two factors, you can cut a number of options. For example, this year Tim wanted to go back to Jamaica, but we needed to keep the total cost after taxes near the $3,000 mark. However, we knew we wanted a nice place but were not worried about being near any particular spot. The rest of the crew travelling with us had some stipulations too. 

Lists (must haves and would be nice) in hand, I started to look for spots. There were not too many within budget and meeting requirements. First timers may become discouraged at this point, but I know that the prices generally drop a bit after Christmas. You need patience. There is that balance of meeting budget requirements and having the relief of being booked.

When you find an option, then we go to the review sites to see what others think. After this many years, I have learned to read the reviews with critical eye by searching for general themes rather than relying on one or two reports. It is also helpful to check nationality of reviewer. I find that different expectations shine through in reviews. Years ago you had to dig a bit more to get beyond promotional materials. We started with Debbie’s Dominican Travel, which has now expanded to Debbie’s Caribbean Resort Reviews. However, now the travel sites have the reviews linked right on their websites. I tend to still go to a second site to double check themes of a resort. (Again, checking my list to ensure the “must haves” are up to snuff).

Finally at some point you have to just “roll the dice” by booking. It is an educated guess. I determine the probability that the trip price will drop, and compare it to the availability of spaces leaving from your airport. It usually comes down for me to a great price at a great spot and the need to get on to some other work.

This year we booked a Sunquest trip, flying with WestJet to the Gran Bahia Principe Runaway Bay. It was amazing. We even took the Cool Runnings tour to Dunn’s River Falls on my friend Kelly’s 40th Birthday. The hotel even let us book a birthday cake with supper that night. Great relaxation on the beach, and fun at night.

Now that I am home, I am screening spots for next year.

Supercritical Fluid Extraction — Commercial Use January 16, 2013

Posted by cherylcan in Things I have looked into.
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Thanks to the PEI BioAlliance. I got to review a process from my past, Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE). SFE uses temperature and pressure to move a fluid beyond its “critical point”, thus creating a supercritical fluid. Supercritical fluids are somewhere between a fluid and a gas which allows for specificity in separation and increased yields when extracted. The added benefit is instead of using toxic solvents, we generally use CO2, so it is a greener process.

My training, by the manufacturer, consisted of extracting oils from a potato chip. Wow… I did not eat chips for a long time after that. The lab was using SFE to assist in the determination of the causes of sediment toxicity.  My work planned to use aqueous sample extraction onto C18 Empore disks and subsequent elution with supercritical CO2 to isolate and concentrate analytes of interest. I won’t get into the scientific details of what we were doing. Suffice to say that SFE was one of my fav methods.

Commercially SFE is used to make decaf coffee, refine hops for beer, and isolate natural compounds. Tuesday, January 15, 2013, Jerry King, from University of Arkansas, came to PEI to make a presentation entitled “Trends and Key Aspects in Commercializing (Super) Critical Fluid Extraction & Technology”. His university bio states that his research is to develop environmentally-benign methodology using compressed carbon dioxide and/or water as media for conducting extractions and reactions of natural/agricultural products, CO2 – based cleaning technology, as well as application to materials modification. What I really loved about him was that he took the process and made it accessible to the company and government reps, as well as the scientists in the audience. It was so nice to see all the different products that use SFE today. There are so many PEI applications of this technology.

CAW – What does it mean to me? January 5, 2013

Posted by cherylcan in Things I have looked into.
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After my last rant, I wanted to do something a bit lighter for my first post of 2013. I chose to do a basic web search of something that I have been meaning to research for awhile now – the crow. My initials spell “CAW”, so I always thought that it might mean something to me. I was slow about doing the research on it because I did not want it all to be negative . How excited was I to find that the crow has been deemed a negative omen only relatively recently and mainly in Europe (1). In many nomadic cultures (i.e. cultures of hunters and fishers) the crow has positive meaning (1). Since I come from a fishing community, I have decided that the crow, and its “CAW” will have positive meaning for me.

Crows are highly intelligent and adaptable omnivores, that can be found worldwide (2). They are members of the Corvidae family, which also includes ravens, magpies and bluejays (2, 3). There are examples where crows were taught to communicate and to count (2), as they are natural mimics and intelligent. Very social creatures with close-knit families, crows live and roost in large groups (3). A large group of crows is called “a murder of crows”. They have many different calls. Their sentinels warn of danger (2), making them loud neighbours in cities and towns.  Study has noted that they will answer the distress calls of other crows even if they are not related (3).

The crow will sit up on the telephone wires and just watch what is going on. They serve as reminds to be aware of our surroundings and to always keep our eyes open for trouble. The deeply spiritual Native American Indians felt that the crow symbolized wisdom (4) and was an omen of transformation (2). Although, some of their stories also implicate the crow as a trickster. Many cultures consider the crow to be keeper of law and an omen of change (2, 5). In North America and for the Mayas, the crow is the symbol of the supreme god, when his wings are flapped the wind, thunder and lightening are created (1). In the bible, the crow brings bread to man alone in the desert (1). Crows are a good omen, bringing food and divine messages in China and Japan (1).

That quick look at the history and lore of the crow has shown me that having “CAW” as my initials is most likely good. If I was to go a step further, I am a watcher, who is able to communicate well, and willing to bring change and wisdom to my surroundings.


2.  http://suite101.com/article/crow-mysterious-pagan-symbol-a20797

3. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/a-murder-of-crows/crow-facts/5965/

4. http://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-symbols/crow-symbol.htm

5. http://www.shamanicjourney.com/article/6033/crow-power-animal-symbol-of-sacred-law-change

While Learning to be Critical Thinkers… Please Remember to Cite Sources!! December 18, 2012

Posted by cherylcan in Critical thinking, Teaching.
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I always thought critical thinking was innate, because it was for me. Whenever, you are analyzing something new first you review their definitions, whether explicitly stated or inferred. Next, determine their sources or their expertise depending on the approach. Finally, make a decision on where you sit with their views. Teaching Introduction to Psychology has demonstrated over and over that most people do not think this way naturally. This fall I was stymied yet again. I have waited a couple of months to write about it hoping to gain perspective. (Yes this rant is tempered by time.)

This term along with a new textbook, the teaching team I work with developed a wonderful little exercise where students first learn about article summary, and plagiarism. Then they must summarize an article, and finally respond to another student. Simple first step in critical thinking. Take someone’s ideas and reflect on them. Next step respond to someone’s reflection. Simple and elegant assignment. I must admit before I begin to rant that some students did this assignment wonderfully and are amazing critical thinkers.

My first problem was the technology. We were not as familiar as we could have been, so there were many issues with the background review assignment. Although I did discuss issues in class, sometimes I felt like they were not listening. Also, the assigned readings mixed various citation methodologies. In Psychology, we use the American Psychological Association (APA) citation style. So I posted links for them to review the proper style.

The first night I went to mark the assignment I was floored to see that most students did not use APA to cite their sources. Some even thought it was fine to write an entire summary without ever citing anything. I was shocked. I guess they completely missed the boat on everything: my first class lecture on plagiarism and the academic consequences, the preparation assignment (14 exercises), and my links!

We had a long discussion about the writing assignment. We cannot operate in a vacuum. In our world we are bombarded by information. You need to know what is yours and who you are drawing on for your work. It is a pet peeve of mine when people do not take the time to acknowledge their sources.

The next assignment required that students respond  I noted that opinion pieces are strengthened when you use references. You can define terms, and discuss expert opinions on whatever topic you are giving your opinion about. I did find that once they knew how to do it, most of my students were able to give an earnest but critical response.

Remember that although we casually share clips of content via social media, it does not apply in an academic context. Academic work always builds on the work of others, it is important to share the underlying facts to demonstrate how we reached our conclusions.


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