Social Statistics Seminar - 18 January 2022
|18 January 2022
|16:00 - 17:00
|What is it:
|School of Social Sciences
|Who is it for:
|University staff, External researchers, Adults, Alumni, Current University students
Social Statistics Seminars 2021/22 – January Session
We need to talk about statistics: The purpose of statistics is insight not numbers
Neil Sheldon (Teaching Statistics Trust)
Join us at 4pm (GMT) on 18 January 2022!
Registration link: http://bit.ly/socialstats0122
Please register using your full name and your email address.
In recent years, statistics teaching has seen a welcome move away from formulae and calculation. Especially with the rise of ‘big data’, numerical processing is increasingly being done with software, and traditional inference is giving way to prediction. These developments make it ever more important for students to learn the art and science of interpretation. Teachers need to change too, focusing less on the numbers and more on the language and logic of statistical investigation.
As with many academic disciplines, statistics overlays everyday language with specialist meaning: one familiar example is the word ‘significant’ which means very different things in everyday use and in statistics. Research shows that parallel meanings such as this make it harder for students to understand the logic of statistical methods. Research also shows that teaching with a richer vocabulary can help to overcome this problem of understanding.
But statistics is more than just an academic discipline, it is a vital element of citizenship: we all need statistical understanding to make sense of the world around us. Yet statistical data are routinely misunderstood and misinterpreted in the media. In most cases, the errors arise not from the numbers themselves, but from the confused and inaccurate language used to comment on them. Clear language is essential to clear thought.
This lecture, drawing on practical examples and links with the philosophy of science, will explore the ways in which careful use of language can help everyone – teachers, students and citizens – to understand statistics better, whether in formulating enquiries, interpreting data, or reaching trustworthy conclusions and communicating them effectively.
About the speaker
Neil Sheldon (neilsheldon.net) was a teacher for more than 40 years. He is a Chartered Statistician and a former Vice-President of the Royal Statistical Society. He was the RSS Guy Lecturer in 2007-8 and he is currently Chair of the Teaching Statistics Trust. Neil’s other academic interests include philosophy and linguistics.
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