May and June--What I've been doing : LUSENET : Stats Forum for Keller-plan Course : One Thread

The last two months have been very relaxing: I can take a nap in the afternoon if I want to, I've been doing a fair bit of swimming at the Y (but haven't gone this week because of the heat), and can even read some books for leisure. I recommend retirement!

I've also tackled a huge backlog of tasks, some of which date from before Louise's accident. I like lists and I like checking an item off when I've done the task. Sometimes after I've done something I say to Louise: "Too bad I didn't have that on my list so I can check it off". She says: "Write it down now and check it off".

A big job is clearing out my office. I started about a month ago and had even thrown a lot of paper out. Then a colleague suggested I contact the university archives. To my surprise they are very interested in what I have, particularly the records of the long run of the statistics course. So I am sorting out what I want to keep at home and what to give to the archives. That they will take so much has saved me from agonizing about whether to throw items out. (I can always go to the archives to see these items.) And what I take home can eventually go to the archives too. I'll keep at home full records of several years of the course (including the last two years) and briefer records and memorabilia of the other years. It's been a lot of work to split my files in this way (you may remember I had shelves of file boxes--that's what I am working through). I'm splitting the Keller-plan course material, but I have tentatively decided to give to the archives all my files related to the computer course that I taught on and off for about 15 years and also all the files about the statistics courses I taught before the Keller-plan course started in 1976. (I started at York in 1966.)

I attended two convocations as a member of the academic procession and had the pleasure of congratulating several former students on stage, including Daryl Cukierman, Giovanni Foti, Paul Hayward, Nekesha Holdipp, and Melodie Vella. Two Psychology colleagues were honoured at these convocations: Hiroshi Ono as Distinguished Research Professor and Ron Sheese as University Professor. I was especially happy to congratulate Ron as I had nominated him for this exclusive honour for his contributions to the university in teaching and service. There are only twelve University Professors at any one time and the title is for life. As you probably remember Ron started me on the Keller-plan, so he gave me my career; nominating him for this honour was one way for me to indicate my deep gratitude.

I continue to appreciate all the e-mails and postings from my former students and TAs. I'm trying to get more of you to post your doings on the forum rather than just to write to me. I especially liked James's description of how the stats course has wounded him for life. Louise and I have also enjoyed visits from Helen Chagigiorgis and Clare Brett. Clare was in years 2 and 3 of the stats course (contemporary with Elke Weber) and besides raising a family in the last 20 years has continued to study and work in Psychology and Education and will be having her Ph.D. orals next month. She starts this fall as a faculty member at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. We're also expecting a visit tomorrow from Deborah Buehler (of the graphing manual) and her husband, Beto. They were married a few months ago in Panama (where Beto comes from). Debbie is finishing her master's degree in Biology at the U. of T.

Finally, many of you have asked about the book by Boris Stoicheff about my father. It is now at the printer and will be out at the end of July or early August. The title is "Gerhard Herzberg: An illustrious life in science" and is published by McGill-Queen's University Press. Besides the well-written story, you'll probably enjoy a number of family pictures!

Please keep posting your stories on the forum! Best wishes for the rest of the summer.


-- Anonymous, July 04, 2002


Last week I had lunch with Paul and Louise after not seeing them for some time. Because I was part of Paul's course in the very early years (78-9 I believe), I hadn't thought about the various ways the course had impacted me for some time, so I thought it would be nice to record these reflections here especially in honour of Paul's retirement (much deserved but still a loss to future students).

So here is my story. I truly would never have completed statistics if it had not been for Paul and Ron Sheese. I had a terrible math phobia and prior to my enrollment in the course my most recent mathematics experience had been to avoid a math test by hiding in a tree at my school in England, from which I had to be coaxed down by an impatient priest (it was a convent-hence the priest, but that is another story...).

Anyway, for my first quiz in the TA room I must have smoked a package of cigarettes (I told you it was a long time ago!) and sat there for an hour to complete it tense and unable to think clearly. i got 10 out of 10, whew!. Things got better after that however, with frequent visits to the lab and long chats with Ron when I got lost. Gradually, through the experiences of that year I discovered I could both understand and enjoy statistics and by the end of the year I had an A in the course and became a TA the following year.

My big insights from this course were about teaching and about statistics.

First teaching. I discovered the reality of constructivism by trying to give other students the benefits of my own insights. Instead of their reactions being aha! to my carefully worked out strategies for deconstructing problems students tended instead to use the various strategies and explanations I developed as procedural recipes, missing what I thought were the "big ideas" I was trying to convey. Of course this crushed me at first until I realized that indeed, people had to construct their own understandings of these problems, and that to teach effectively, you needed to start where they were and help scaffold their learning from that point. This understanding has never left me and has been a part of my own teaching approach with my students.

As far as statistics were concerned, I only realized recently that my whole attitude toward them had changed a long time ago from the experiences in the course. I noticed that in discussions with my children we would take apart scientific and statistical 'findings' presented in the news on TV and on the radio. Things like the suspect sampling in different politicians presentations of the 'same' data; the often simplistic reporting of scientific or medical breakthroughs and so many misuses of correlations as causal explanations--the list goes on.... I realized my children (15 and 10) are starting to do this on their own, developing an ear for accuracy and slippery numbers! I am convinced that they will have a much easier time when it comes to taking statistics courses themselves!

My last comment is about my friend and colleague Lois Omson who was in the same year for the stats course and as then as a TA. I learned a lot from her as well. She was a wonderful teacher and a tireless 'understander' --together we would sit and pore over questions, formulae and answers until we were sure we understood them. Sometimes this meant many extra hours in the lab, sometimes more hours in the pub! Either way we both made headway. Without her I wonder if I would have had the persistence to pursue those ideas with the same energy. Lois died a few years ago--too young and with so much still to give. She will always have both my affection and respect for her nature and her teaching gift.

Best wishes to you Paul on your retirement and thank you for all the care you have put into your teaching over the years, it has been a tremendously influential model for so many of us, and particularly in my mind as I take up a new faculty position.

Keep in touch, and just let me know when you want some more lemon souffle! Regards Clare Brett Assistant Professor, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, OISE/UT.

-- Anonymous, July 07, 2002

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