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Faculty Experiences - Mahtash Esfandiari

Mahtash Esfandiari - photoMAHTASH ESFANDIARI


Interview Topics
What matters most to you in your teaching?

How are you using technology as a tool to achieve your teaching goals?

How have your students responded to your use of technology?

What new goals do you have for using technology in teaching?
Different learning styles

Relate theory to practice

Student participation

Work with real data
Class web site

Computer classroom/lab



SPSS (software)

Interpreting and Presenting Data

I want students to be excited about statistics. I want them to enjoy it and find the subject useful. It is my personal belief that students have to be active participants in learning information. I am a believer in constructivism in teaching. My teaching is very interactive. I ask my students a lot of questions. It's important to create a context that that is familiar to them. I try to use examples that apply to them. I also have my students write about their findings. It's important for them to know how to interpret the data and present it to an audience that may not be statistically oriented. I also recognize that students learn differently.

One thing that is certain in all of the literature and findings in my field is that technology has revolutionized the way we teach statistics. Without the use of computers, I would not be able to teach my current class the way I do. For example, if you wanted to do a computational study twenty years ago, it would have taken hundreds of hours or months to compute the data for analysis. Now with modern software it would take minutes to create a situational equation. The computer has taken away the burden of students having to do about eighty percent of the computations. In the 1990s, students had to write their own programs to do assignments. So if a student had a bug it prevented them from spending time on the statistical concepts and analysis. They spent so much time on programming instead of the material and concepts.

For one research project I am personally doing, I have collected data for over three to four thousand students. I give my class this information. All of their manipulation of the data is technology-driven. I teach the lab myself. I demonstrate the software and its application. I model the writing of the results. All of this is done in the  CLICC Lab; however, sometimes we use our own lab in the statistics department.
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Our department manages a web site. I use our  class web site to post homework and solutions. I use  MyUCLA to send mass e-mails to my students. I collect all the questions regarding homework and their answers and then send them en mass to the students. The students have a take home midterm and final that requires them to use statistical software. We use  SPSS software. I have my students read a lot of technical papers regarding the use of statistical software in the real world.
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The reality is that I try not to abuse technology. I don't put my lectures on the web and that is by design. Sometimes students feel that this means they don't have to come to class.
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I always conduct a student evaluation that is anonymous. I specifically ask how they like the labs and the use of technology. I've always received positive responses about the use of technology in the class.
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There is a strong movement to totally separate statistics from mathematics. They are not the same. Statistics is the science of data. Without technology you could not show people that statistics is not mathematics. Computers eliminate a major portion of math used in doing statistical analysis.
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I am hoping in the future that statistical software can be downloaded easily on the web so students can have access anywhere. Five years ago, we were spending so much time trying to teach our students probability, for example. Now, our department has received funding to develop a sophisticated computer lab. In the future, all of our undergraduates will have access to a computer while in class. This will be an advantage.
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Oral Interview: May 7, 2003
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