Friday, April 19, 2013

Social Statistics  II: A comparison and contrast of five syllabus
     The course I am interested in the Sociology 360: Statistics for Sociologists I, taught in the Department of Sociology. It is an introductory course to basic statistics for students in the social sciences. The five syllabuses I am going to compare and contrast are: Geoff Bakken(instructor) taught in summer 2011, Nicole Kraus(instructor) taught in spring 2012, Hongyun Han(instructor) taught in spring 2009, John A. Logan (instructor) taught in spring2012 and Chaeyoon Lim(instructor) taught in fall 2010.
     All the five syllabuses shared the same structure of the contents, including the overview of the course, required textbooks, grades information, detailed course schedule and so forth. For example, they all included the information of the instructor and the teaching assistant, including both office hours, contact information, which made themselves approachable to students. Second, they set clear rules on grades at the beginning of the course. For example, all of them included a table, showing what percentage of each components would count in the final grades. The policy of  made-up exams, grading of home works, penalty of late homework assignments, academic dishonesty were explicitly illustrated. These instructions provide guidelines and boundary for students, from my point of view, which is necessary and helpful for students. This course is basically designed for beginners of social science research. Most of students taking this course are sophomores, meaning they already have a sort sense of scientific study after the first year study in university but no doubly, they are still in the early stage of research. The syllabus not only provide the guidelines, expectations and boundaries for these young starters, but also is a mean of avoiding misunderstanding between students and instructor or TAs and further disagreement caused by ambiguity.

     Since this course is a relatively stable course which has been provided for years, there is no significant difference among these five syllabuses. However, they do differ some details, which showing the emphasis of different instructors and evolution of this Sociology 360. One difference is the adding of data analysis projects in the final grades. In the spring 2009, there was no data analysis project assignment; in summer 2011, there was one data analysis assignment; and in spring2012, there were two data analysis assignments. Accordingly, the weight of  exams decreased from 80% to 65% to 55%. The weight of data analysis project increased from 0 to 15% and to 25% of the final grade. Incorporating one or two data analysis projects into the design of the course, has placed higher requirements on students for fully understanding the concepts and integrating the concepts to solve research question. However, this is also a higher requirement for instructors and TAs. As discussed above, most students are sophomores, who may lack sufficient skills to do research at this stage. How to instruct them do a data project which fit their stage and meet the end of teaching this course is a challenge for both course designers, instructor and TAs.  A step-by-step instruction should be provided in the mid-way of the course, and an exemplar can be provided to show the expectation for students.

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