JINS Course Outcome Statements
Upon completion of the Interdisciplinary, Writing-Enhanced Junior Seminar, students will have engaged in:
§ intersections or tensions between two or more academic disciplines with respect to applied methods or tools of inquiry; or
- For about a hundred years, Statistics has been used as a central methodology in many different disciplines, particularly those in natural and social science. Only recently has statistics matured into a true discipline of its own, with its own philosophical underpinnings and methodology beyond that of a simple tool used by other disciplines. In particular, statistics is based on the fact that simple assumptions about a population can be used with sample data to draw sophisticated conclusions about that population.
- This class will look at topics in Health, Political Science, and Philosophy through their own methodology and philosophy, as well as the lens of statistics, and see how we can use data collected about these topics to make decisions about the world in which we live.
- Statistics is not a “magic bullet.” Many Americans have a lack of confidence in statistics, for instance, that “statistics can be used to show anything.” Of course, statistics is not always the right tool to use to gain knowledge and change the world, and we will explore its limitations. For instance, Jane Goodall’s work makes little use of statistics (in fact, she has frequently been criticized by more scientifically-minded biologists), but she has been amazingly successful in changing the world’s view of gorillas, protection of their habitat, and the use of animals in laboratory research. Generations earlier, a flawed use of statistics was employed as support some of the worst Nazi policies of eugenics and ethnic discrimination.
§ investigation of ways in which a given topic or concept may be understood and questioned by two or more different disciplines within a larger civic, cultural, or professional context;
- As proposed here, this class will look at the topics in several ways. We shall examine them as intellectual discussions within their own discipline, as a set of decisions that has ramifications for the world, and as vehicles for good data collection and analysis. We will discuss how each of these views creates a different view of Truth and Knowledge, and how the entire Epistemology changes depending on which discipline one is using for the inquiry.
- The class will look at the philosophical view of statistics, and how statistics fits into a broader view of epistemology and truth. This course will look at cases where science has been used to make policy, good or bad, and where data could have been used to effectively change perceptions. It will also look at how those who try to change policy by protesting from the outside use statistics to catch the attention of policymakers.
…and will have demonstrated:
§ knowledge of, and reflection on, how advanced-level content from two or more disciplines interacts;
- In papers and discussions, students will frequently address the issue of how philosophical and political views interact with knowledge from scientists and statisticians. The relationship is not always adversarial; scientists and politicians all want to make the world better, although people from both camps have a history of taking what they want from the other, while ignoring or criticizing those things with which they can’t agree.
§ and integrated analysis and reflection informed by approaches or methods from two or more disciplines.
- Class discussion and the papers and exams will focus on this sort of analysis and reflection. On a simple level, we will spend much of our time discussing the power and limitations of statistics, but on a higher level, we will see how people on different sides of an issue use data for their own purposes. For instance, if data overwhelmingly demonstrated that criminalizing abortion actually increases the number of abortions performed each year, would conservatives stop pushing for such a ban? Similarly, if increasing the number of concealed handguns really does reduce the number of people killed by handguns, would liberal policymakers really start supporting laws that encourage such behavior? Most people would answer, “probably not.” Then, what is there about policymaking that transcends data? Is reducing the number of abortions or reducing crime really the goal of all, or just an argument in a larger philosophical context?
- The final project will require a large amount of analysis and reflection from several disciplines. On a topic of the student’s choosing, she will be required to find existing data and scientific analysis on the topic, and see how experts disagree about the usefulness and meaning of the data. Beyond that, though, she will be required to draw her own conclusions about what is found, what data still should be collected before a real conclusion can be drawn, and what recommendations she would give to those on both sides of an issue.
Writing-Enhanced Outcome Statements:
Upon completion of this course, successful students will have used and developed skills in writing cognition, process and skills.
In particular, during this course, they will:
- use writing as a mode of learning as well as a method of communicating what was learned;
- be able to generate, organize, and communicate information and ideas fully, clearly, and cogently;
- exhibit critical thinking such as the ability to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and reflect;
- show audience awareness;
- appreciate the importance of good writing in their personal and professional lives;
The term paper will focus on an area of public policy of interest to the student, preferably one that that has broad divisions of opinion. The student will have to locate and explain positions held by relevant, prominent people. The student will have to locate and summarize existing data on this policy area. Using these positions and data, the student will develop and defend her own opinion on this issue. In addition, the student will make a proposal for what new data should be collected, and how it could be used to demonstrate support for one or more sides of the policy issue.
The term paper will be specifically written for a target audience of statistically literate but not expert readers (perhaps assuming a B student from STAT 190). A well-organized outline will have been submitted, and higher levels of critical thinking will have been shown.
- engage in deep revision, closely examining and further developing the reasoning in the writing;
- assess their own writing to uncover strengths and concerns, and be able to generate strategies for improvement;
- solicit external critiques of their writing to guide revision;
- as a regular habit of their writing process, copy-edit their own work for mechanics, style, and coherence;
Students’ term papers will go through several drafts before achieving a final version. The instructor will continually be monitoring progress, and will schedule two or more meetings during the semester to discuss the paper in a one-on-one setting. Class time will be spent having members of the class review one another’s papers, and they will be used both as copy editors, looking for mistakes in grammar and lack of clarity, and as expert colleagues, looking at the critical arguments and methodology. If available, peer readers from the writing center will be employed as another level of facilitating writing growth.
- be able to write clear, coherent, and well organized prose for a targeted audience;
- demonstrate a command of syntax, style, and tone appropriate to the task; and
- exhibit mastery of punctuation, usage, and formatting conventions.
At the end of the course, all students will have a well-written paper examining an area of public policy. They will write for a statistically literate but not expert audience, examine existing data, and determine what data still should be collected. They will also discuss what conclusions, if any, one can draw from the data, and how this could be applied to policymaking.