Home » Meetings, President's Corner, Statistical Education

Leading Through Teaching and JSM 2018 Memorable Moments

1 October 2018 No Comment

Lisa LaVange

JSM 2018 is in the rear-view mirror but still having quite an impact on many of us. This month’s issue of Amstat News contains highlights from the meeting and articles contributed by those who had a hand in making it such a success. If you are like me, you will first flip through the pages to find photos of your friends or be reminded of the many fun and entertaining moments! But after that, be sure to check out the articles. And if you are among those who were unable to travel to Vancouver or otherwise missed the meeting this year, stories about some of the memorable sessions are there for the taking.

In keeping with this year’s theme, #LeadWithStatistics, I want to talk about how important it is to lead through teaching and highlight a few of the many ways the ASA helps us do this.

At nearly every JSM since 2007, we have held a Meeting Within a Meeting (MWM) for middle- and high-school teachers. I noticed these events on past programs, but paid little attention until this year, when my daughter—Kate, a middle-school math teacher—was able to attend. Now in her 10th year as an educator—that noblest of all professions (paraphrasing A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former science teacher and president of India)—she is always looking for new ways to weave probability theory and data analysis into her lessons and encourage her students’ statistical thinking. And did this year’s MWM workshop deliver! She came away with wonderful ideas for teaching tools that are directly relevant to her classroom goals and appropriate for her students’ skill levels.

“I loved being able to connect with other math educators and sharing different ways we use statistics in the classroom,” said Kate. “Even though I don’t teach a statistics course in middle school, I feel better equipped to help prepare my students to be statistical thinkers by incorporating some of the problems and activities I took away from the wonderful presenters at the MWM workshop.”

We talk a lot about data science—its growth in today’s marketplace, its relationship to the field of statistics, and its impact on our profession. We worry that those receiving certificates or degrees in data science may not be getting enough exposure to fundamental statistical theory. After all, what good is the fanciest tool for data mining if you stop short of making appropriate inference from it?

The ASA endorsed guidelines for an undergraduate curriculum in data science a few years ago and emphasized keeping statistics in the mix of computer science and mathematics courses.

MWM is a perfect example of how we also support early data science education. Among the many activities offered this year were some involving data collection and data visualization, just the kinds of ideas teachers can use to plant a little data science seed in the minds of future statisticians!

In Katherine Halvorsen’s article about MWM later in this issue, you can get an idea of the content and flow of the workshop, as well as the presenters and attendees. Rebecca Nichols, ASA’s director of education, oversees the logistics of the workshop, and the ASA’s K–12 educational ambassador, Chris Franklin, is one of the presenters. What a powerful trio of women leaders in statistics education affecting teachers from across the US. Hats off to all three for their work in making this event accessible and memorable for teachers everywhere.

Two other highly successful educational programs are highlighted in this issue. The JSM Diversity Mentoring Program was held Sunday through Wednesday, concluding another highly successful offering from the ASA Committee on Minorities in Statistics. An article highlighting our 2018 educational ambassadors from Pakistan and Thailand is also included in this issue, as is a call for 2020 ambassadors. Both high-impact programs expand our reach into the larger statistical community and effectively leverage many of the educational opportunities offered at JSM to benefit others.

My final education-related shout out is to wish the Statistical Education Section a happy 70th birthday, which they celebrated at JSM.

The Statistical Education Section celebrated their 70th birthday at the Joint Statistical Meetings 2018.

The Statistical Education Section celebrated their 70th birthday at the Joint Statistical Meetings 2018.

    One of my favorite aspects of JSM technical programs, also mentioned in my corner of the July issue of Amstat News, are special sessions such as the introductory overview lectures and late-breaking sessions. In the past, these lectures have focused on areas of statistics that had begun to generate widespread interest among members. Topics relating to disease outbreaks, such as Ebola, or politically charged topics, such as climate change, for example, have been featured in late-breaking sessions, just as our role in understanding and contributing to these areas as statisticians came to the forefront.

    For JSM 2018, one late-breaking session featured machine learning methods that drive critical decisions but also come under scrutiny for lack of transparency in their use. A second was devoted to a timely topic concerning the practice of our profession, namely sexual misconduct at statistical gatherings. A panel of statistical experts from different sectors of our society convened to discuss the topic. Leslie McClure, chair of the ASA Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Assault, was one of the panelists.

    That same task force has been hard at work for more than eight months now, drafting recommendations for the ASA Board to adopt in revising our conduct policy and developing a data-collection instrument to hear from ASA members about their experiences. The task force recommendations will be posted for public comment in the coming weeks, and we look forward to hearing from members about them. Your input will be valuable in guiding the board as they consider policy revisions on this important matter.

    A more comprehensive summary of JSM 2018 can be found later in this issue. Program Chair Christian Léger provides a terrific overview of meeting highlights, but a few that stand out to me are honoring Daniel Kaspryzyk, Marie Davidian, and Alicia Cariquirry as our newest Founders; celebrating (and yes, even dancing) with our 60 newest ASA Fellows; and learning from Susan Murphy’s COPSS lecture that Cole Porter championed experimental design in one of his many songs.

    Looking back on one wonderful week spent in one beautiful city in British Columbia with so many friends and colleagues around, I have a huge smile on my face. Hats off to Christian and his program committee, to the ASA team of hard-working staff members, and to all of you for helping put this latest JSM in the record books as one of the very best!

    1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

    Comments are closed.