I had a statistics midterm today.
For me, statistics is one of a select group of fantastically frustrating courses. Half of the material is so intuitive one almost wonders if it warrants mention, and the other half is so un-intuitive there is no way you could ever deduce it. No really, whatever you just guessed? It’s wrong. This forces the student to both gain a working understanding of the logic behind the methods, as well as memorize a small mountain of information that is either so unintuitive there’s no way to incorporate it other than memorization, or methods that we must use but lack the knowledge to derive. Now, I realize that at the most basic level this describes just about any class. However, usually when the concepts are this… I don’t want to say difficult because really they are fundamentally simple, but perhaps ‘pitfall-ridden’ would be an accurate descriptor? – the teacher will provide the necessary information as reference, and simply judge ones ability to apply said information. When this is not the case, studying becomes an exercise in attempting to cram as much random information into ones head as possible, because you just know that the solution to one of the problems will hinge on a single line on the back page of the supplemental reading. I think that the learning of the concepts behind the course material suffers because of this, and thus diminishes the class as a whole.
To add to all of this, the class is curved – in the bad way. The mean score becomes a 72.5%, or C, and anything below that goes into C- range, which is failing for courses within your major. That means 50% of the class (more or less, depending on how many students manage to hit exactly the mean) will fail. This to me creates a terrible atmosphere. Not that competition is bad of course, but when students regularly lean on each other to get through a class as a whole, a system in which helping others means directly hurting oneself is just insulting. As for the tests themselves, being unintuitive as they are, one cannot even check to see if an answer makes sense, because the answer is likely going to be no. No it does not. But it could still be right. The course is just poorly designed, which is unfortunate because I rather like both the material and the professor.