# Goals of Your Introductory Statistics Course

## Donald B. Macnaughton

 All introductory statistics courses should have carefully stated goals (Hogg 1990) because goals enable a teacher to evaluate course material most effectively -- in terms of how well the material satisfies the goals, and if the goals of two or more prospective course approaches are clearly stated, it is easier for a teacher to compare the approaches, so as to choose the best approach. Ask yourself -- what are the goals of the introductory statistics course that you teach, or what were the goals of an introductory statistics course that you have taken? Many introductory statistics courses use what can be called "topic-based" goals. A teacher using such goals simply specifies a list of statistical topics to be covered. For example, a teacher of a traditional introductory course might aim to cover the topics of probability theory, distribution theory, point and interval estimation, and so on. Similarly, a teacher of an activity-based course might make a list of statistical topics and then assign various activities to the students in order to cover the topics. Unfortunately, topic-based goals have a serious drawback: By emphasizing statistical topics, the goals usually fail to emphasize what is essential, which I believe is to help students appreciate the vital role of the field of statistics in empirical research. I believe that unless students learn to understand and appreciate the role, any knowledge they gain of statistical topics will be both of little interest to them, and of little use. To address this drawback, I propose that the goals of an introductory statistics course should be to give students a lasting appreciation of the vital role of the field of statistics in empirical research, and to teach students to use some useful statistical methods in empirical research. I believe that the above two goals are optimal. I invite readers who disagree to present their views in the sci.stat.edu Usenet newsgroup. (Of course, teachers wishing to use the first of the above two goals must have a well-defined approach to teaching the role of the field of statistics. I describe an approach to teaching the role of statistics to students in a paper [1996].) The above points are part of a broader discussion of an approach to the introductory course available at http://www.matstat.com/teach/ ACKNOWLEDGMENT I thank Stephen Senn for helpful suggestions for improving the statement of the second goal. REFERENCES Hogg, R. V. (1990), "Statisticians Gather to Discuss Statistical Education," Amstat News, Number 169, November 1990, 19-20. Macnaughton, D. B. (1996), "The Introductory Statistics Course: A New Approach." Available at http://www.matstat.com/teach Home Page for the Entity-Property-Relationship Approach to Introductory Statistics