USCOTS 2013: Making Change Happen
Allan Rossman, USCOTS Program Chair, and Jean Scott, CAUSE Program Coordinator
The fifth biennial USCOTS took place May 16–18 at the Research Triangle Embassy Suites in Cary, North Carolina. The conference was hosted by CAUSE (Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education) and the North Carolina State University Department of Statistics. More than 400 participants—representing a wide range of institutions, departments, and countries—attended the conference.
The conference theme of “Making Change Happen” aimed to challenge participants to consider how to make productive changes to their own teaching, their department and institution’s programs, and to statistics education more broadly across the country and around the world. The conference consisted of plenary sessions, breakout sessions, “posters and beyond” sessions, technology demonstrations, and pre-conference workshops.
One change in the conference program this year was to open and close the conference with a series of five-minute presentations with 10 slides displayed for 15 seconds each. The presenters were asked to talk about how they have affected change and how change has affected them. Presenters were further asked to make their presentations personal, fun, and inspiring. These presenters—Bob delMas, Chris Wild, Christine Franklin, Dalene Stangl, Danny Kaplan, Daren Starnes, Hollylynne Stohl Lee, Mary Parker, Nick Horton, Rob Gould, Robin Lock, and Shonda Kuiper—succeeded at surpassing these high goals, kicking off the conference with a rousing and thought-provoking start. Beth Chance, Dennis Pearl, George Cobb, Jessica Utts, Roger Woodard, and Roxy Peck used the same five-minute format in the closing session to conclude the conference on a high note and inspire participants to make change happen when they returned home.
Plenary presentations energized conference participants to consider how the discipline of statistics is changing, how the enterprise of education is changing, and how technology tools available for both teaching and practicing statistics are changing. The first plenary session was presented by Nick Horton of Amherst College and Danny Kaplan of Macalester College. They challenged the audience to place more emphasis on helping students make decisions and draw conclusions from observational data and other data collected in less-than-ideal conditions.
Hollylynne Stohl Lee of North Carolina State University followed by urging participants to join her in envisioning the skills and knowledge, both statistical and pedagogical, that are desirable in a future K–12 teacher of statistics.
Xiao-Li Meng of Harvard University presented a case for achieving breadth and depth of knowledge by emphasizing not only interdisciplinary education, but also intergenerational education.
Chris Wild of the University of Auckland concluded the plenary presentations by presenting software tools that empower students at all levels to engage in data visualization explorations that can excite them about studying statistics.
Breakout sessions provided participants with the opportunity to engage with presenters on a wide range of topics, including online learning, flipped classrooms, interactive software tools, and teacher development.
“Posters and beyond” sessions enriched the program with even more opportunities for one-on-one discussions of topics of common interest. More than 50 poster presenters participated in the conference.
The conference banquet, hosted and sponsored by SAS, was held on Friday evening. Dennis Pearl, director of CAUSE, presented the CAUSE Lifetime Achievement Award to Christine Franklin of the University of Georgia for her tireless, extensive, and profound contributions to undergraduate education and her passionate advocacy for K–12 statistics education throughout the country. Kim Gilbert, Starnes, and Peck assisted with the presentation of this award by sharing personal and professional reflections on the lasting effects that Franklin has had on students and colleagues.
USCOTS participants also enjoyed entertainment at this year’s conference. The opening session was followed with music by The Fifth Moment, a group of graduate students in the statistics department at North Carolina State University. Songs included “Advise Me Maybe,” “Shrink It,” and “I Think I’m a Bayesian.” Larry Lesser of The University of Texas at El Paso provided entertainment at the conference banquet when he performed original compositions such as “Hit Me with Your Best Plot,” “The Gambler,” and “Y Hat Dance.” And Michael Posner of Villanova University concluded the banquet entertainment by performing his A-μ-sing contest award-winning song, “Stats Can Be Cool You See.”
A series of 10 pre- and post-conference workshops afforded many USCOTS participants a chance to experience more hands-on involvement with various topics related to teaching statistics. Workshops were conducted on topics such as implementing discovery projects, interactive probability instruction, learning statistics by playing games, teaching statistics with R, addressing difficult concepts, implementing a randomization-based curriculum, technology innovations with JMP, online teaching, and grant writing.
For links to presentation files, song lyrics, and more, visit the CAUSE website.