Mere Renovation is Too Little Too Late: We Need to Rethink Our Undergraduate Curriculum from the Ground Up (Cobb, 2015)

The last half-dozen years have seen The American Statistician publish well-argued and provocative calls to change our thinking about statistics and how we teach it, among them Brown and Kass (2009), Nolan and Temple-Lang (2010), and Legler et al. (2010). In 2014 the ASA issued a new and comprehensive set of guidelines for undergraduate programs (ASA 2014).

Accepting (and applauding) all this as background, Cobb's article argues the need to rethink our curriculum from the ground up, and offers five principles and two caveats intended to help us along the path toward a new synthesis. These principles and caveats rest on my sense of three parallel evolutions: the convergence of trends in the roles of mathematics, computation, and context within statistics education. These ongoing changes, together with the articles cited above and the seminal provocation by Leo Breiman (2001) call for a deep rethinking of what we teach to undergraduates. In particular, following Brown and Kass, we should put priority on two goals, to make fundamental concepts accessible and to minimize prerequisites to research.

See also the special issue of TAS devoted to the undergraduate statistics curriculum, the guest editorial on teaching how to "Think with Data" and the Building precursors to data science website.

Nicholas Horton, twitter
Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Amherst College
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