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Stats 1101 - Freshman Seminar

The Power of Confidence


Instructor:  Scott Crawford
Office hours: MWF 11-12 (note I am available at other times if you email me)
Office: Ross Hall 333
Class: MWF 12-1       Coe 221

The world is based on specific rules which no one actually knows. Your opinions about how life works are molded from your experiences. That belief then shapes your decisions. Power is the ability to know when it is time to upgrade your model of the universe, while confidence is moving forward with what you believe to be true. Others may try to fool you into believing what they want with carefully crafted data. This non-mathematical class explores the process of making choices in a world filled with errors and uncertainty, also known as statistical analysis.

USP 2015 FYS Requirement

This course fulfills the First-Year Seminar (FYS) requirement of the 2015 University Studies Program. You will critically examine and evaluate evidence, claims, beliefs, or points of view about meaningful, relevant issues. You will be introduced to active learning, inquiry of pressing issues, and individual and collaborative processing of ideas.

                The first year seminar is designed to practice your skills in research, active discussion, and collaboration with peers.  We will sort through the facts (data) and our perspectives (opinions) as well as the perspective of others.  Evaluating the data under the assumptions used will lead to statistically correct conclusions.  We will present our findings through oral presentations and writing reports.  The main topic of emphasis is in relating these statistical terms to life skills you will need to be successful at the university.   NOTE: You cannot (by University policy) withdraw from a first year seminar course without instructor AND advisor permission.

First Year Seminar: Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Access diverse information through focused research, active discussion, and collaboration with peers.
  2. Separate facts from inferences and relevant from irrelevant information, explaining the limitations.
  3. Evaluate the credibility, accuracy, and reliability of conclusions drawn from information.
  4. Recognize and synthesize multiple perspectives to develop innovative viewpoints.
  5. Analyze one’s own and others’ assumptions and evaluate the relevance of contexts in that position.
  6. Communicate ideas in writing using appropriate documentation


The following is the percentage weighting for the final grade.  See the schedule for the due date for each assignment.

10% Class Participation
20% Discussion Thread Analysis
20% Article Evaluation
20% Statistical Advertising
30% Research Project 

The following letter grades and percentage will be used for all graded evaluations.
A 90% - 100%
B 80% - 89.9%
C 70% - 79.9%
D 60% - 69.9%
F Below 60% 

Note there is no extra credit in this class

Class Participation

            Most class periods will have an activity.  Your attendance score expects you to be present and participate.  That does not mean you need to agree with the conclusions from the discussion.  Two attendance scores will be dropped to account for those unexpected times when you must miss class.

Discussion Thread Analysis

            Each student will create a discussion thread with a controversial (but inoffensive) topic that has a “yes or no” response related to student success as the University level.  For example:
Is it easier to get good grades at a community college?
Would paying teachers more lead to better instruction?
Do students who are married have more success in class?
Each student is required to respond to every post with their opinion on the question, as well as (at least) one bit of evidence they have seen in their life to support that conclusion.  Then you will take the discussion thread you started and summarize the responses to your question.  You will present your findings to the class with a short presentation that explains the responses from the class and your own opinion and evidence in the matter.  See the rubric for detailed expectations.

Article Evaluation

            Each student will find an article that satisfies the following criterion:

  • Makes a claim of a new finding or improvement
  • Uses some factual evidence to support their claim
  • Still leaves some doubt as to whether that claim is actually valid

You will evaluate the claim to ascertain the reasoning they feel that their conclusions were valid.  Then you will find evidence to suggest their opposite of their conclusion.  Finish by deciding what conclusions they should have made (if any) and write a report detailing your findings.  See the rubric for detailed expectations.

Statistical Advertising

            Each student decides something that they wish to persuade other students to do/believe that could potentially improve their success as UW.  You will create a poster to advertise your persuasive argument to show the class.  The rules are:

  • Everything must fit within the 24” by 36” size.
  • The poster must be able to hang from a wall by tape
  • It must include a valid statistical claim
  • It must include an INVALID statistical claim (using poor or manipulative measures as we will have discussed in class)

The goal is to become aware of statistical manipulation in the media and to be able to spot it and not be fooled.   Other students in the class will look at your ad to discuss the statistical manipulation in it.  See the rubric for detailed expectations

Research Project

            The significant final project for this class is a research project which satisfies the following requirements:

  • Work in a group of 3 or 4 students
  • Each student in the group will define their role and contribution to the project
  • Ask a question about the best practices for success in a college class.

Examples include:
Does watching TV make it harder to study?
Is it better easier to do well in a morning class or an afternoon class?
How likely is a teacher to meet with you outside of office hours?

  • Has a hypothesis about the answer to the question above.
  • Defines a quantifiable way to measure evidence to test the hypothesis.
  • Conduct an experiment to gather data to test the hypothesis
  • Summarize the data to determine what was discovered
  • Make a conclusion about the original question
  • Write a report on your findings
  • Present your report to the class using a slideshow (or similar format)

The writing is expected to be a formal report with the following characteristics:
Typed and printed (hard copy)          
Double spaced
12 point font – standard margins
All computer output and all graphs are explained
Every claim is supported with evidence
See the rubric for more detailed expectations 

Attendance/Participation Policy:

Refer to UW Regulation 6-713. University sponsored absences are cleared through the Office of Student Life (OSL). Students with official authorized absences shall be permitted to make up work without penalty in classes missed.

Disability Statement:

If you have a physical, learning, sensory or psychological disability and require accommodations, please let me know as soon as possible. You will need to register with, and provide documentation of your disability to University Disability Support Services (UDSS) in SEO, room 330 Knight Hall.

Academic Honesty:

The University of Wyoming is built upon a strong foundation of integrity, respect and trust. All members of the university community have a responsibility to be honest and the right to expect honesty from others. Any form of academic dishonesty is unacceptable to our community and will not be tolerated. 

Course Schedule:

NOTE: The instructor reserves the right to modify the schedule at my discretion to accommodate the resources available or needs of the students.  Any change to the due dates will be clearly announced in class and by email in advance.

Aug 26: What is statistics?

                Not math.  Math is a valuable tool – never an excuse.

                Statistics helps you figure out how the world around you really works

Aug 28: Just because it looks like numbers doesn’t mean you can average it.

                Understanding what you already know helps you plan the next step

                Determine what it is you really want out of life

Aug 30: Probabilities only refer to infinite pools of samples

                Your possibilities are infinite, but you can shape which ones are more likely

                Spotting things that had small probability can highlight errors in your beliefs

Sept 2: Labor Day

Sept 4: The alpha level determines your rejection region

                How much evidence do you need before changing your mind?

                Small alpha for stubborn people, large alpha for open minded people

Sept 6: With lots of data the error can be modeled

                One strange occurrence should not change your view of the world

                If you have enough information you can say something conclusive

Sept 9: Accept the alpha rate to determine your conclusion

                You cannot expect to never make mistakes

                Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong

Sept 11: (Discussion thread posting)

                Finding a topic with two sides and no clear answer

                Moderating the comments

Sept 13: Confidence is the ability to conclude a true null

                Moving forward when your model of the world seems to be working

                Stick to your beliefs even when there is some evidence to destroy it

Sept 16: With small sample sizes the null will fail to reject

                Your vision of reality might simply be a product of not knowing better

                Having a working model does not mean the model cannot be improved

Sept 18: The confidence level shows how often the analysis is correct

                Using a successful method does not guarantee you will always succeed

                Accept you have done your best without complaining about what should have happened

Sept 20: (Practice type 1 vs type 2 error rates)

Sept 23: Discussion Thread presentations

Sept 25: Discussion Thread presentations

Sept 27: Discussion Thread presentations

Sept 30: Power is the ability to reject a false null hypothesis

                How to know when what you thought is actually wrong

                Determining whether you will be able to adjust when needed

Oct 2: Introducing knowledge into the system increases power

                Putting what you know and what you believe together

                Adjusting your plans in the middle of them

Oct 4: More data relative to the error increases the power

                Finding the signal amid the noise – tune out the distractors

                Whether you need only a little time, or a lifetime to figure things out

Oct 7: (Paper Airplanes Experiment)

Oct 9: (Article evaluation preparation)

                Controversial topic with problematic claims

                Determine the statistically correct conclusions they should have made

Oct 11: Tradeoff between bias and variance

                Choose between living a life with higher rewards or lower risk

                Every change will have some benefit and drawback

Oct 14: Test with the statistic that is powerful and robust

                Protect yourself from being fooled by easy shortcuts

                Make choices that are based on good facts without speculation

Oct 16: Statistical significance is not practical significance

                Just because something is true may not mean you need to change your life

                Determining how much effect is needed before it affects you

Oct 18: Lurking variables can fake causation

                Determining what your experience is actually saying instead of what you want it to say

                Checking other causes for the event can save you from a wild goose chase

Oct 21:  Comparing between different populations introduces bias

                Don’t use apples to study oranges – stay focused on your goals

                Someone else’s failures do not mean you cannot succeed

Oct 23: Extrapolating beyond the data is unapproved

                It is dangerous to expect things to stay the same

                Predicting your future based on your past does not account for growth

Oct 25: Article Evaluation due (with discussion)

Oct 28: The way you collect the data affects how you analyze it

                The source of your information should change the way you process it

                Your ability to learn can be hindered by the way you get information

Oct 30: (Bubbles experiment)

Nov 1: Successful surveying techniques

                Balancing the need for knowledge verses the resources available

                Adjusting to plan B when the original plan is messed up

Nov 4: (How to lie with Statistics in Media – making statistical ads)

                Determine what you are persuading for

                Use valid statistics for shock and awe

Nov 6: Design twice, survey once

                Make a plan with the end in mind

                Exploring all the options you need to know about

Nov 8: (Creating a research project)

                Experiment with differing success skills for college students

                Collect the data, find your conclusion, and present the results

Nov 11: Ethics in data mining

                If you fish for what you want long enough you’ll eventually justify anything

                When you are simply torturing yourself you will agree to any conclusion

Nov 13: Conclusions need to be in the language of the client

                Research what others are interested in to make a real connection

                Understand what is important to the other person before you offer advice

Nov 15: Presentations of the statistical ads

Nov 18: (Public Speaking tips)

                Bringing complicated ideas to the level of the audience

                Keep the focus on the purpose, not on your presentation

Nov 20: Putting it all together

                Make a model, decide what you want to know, observe data

                Compare the data to the model, determine the conclusion

Nov 22: (Tissues experiment)

Nov 25: What is Statistics

                Symptoms for someone who can apply statistics to their life

                Ways to change your understanding of the world for the better

Nov 27: Thanksgiving

Nov 29: Thanksgiving

Dec 2: Research Presentations

Dec 4: Research Presentations

Dec 6: Research Presentations


Rubric for the Discussion Thread Analysis

You will be graded out of 100 points (which is the maximum you can earn)

The points are a guide – it is possible to land between two categories and receive points that are between them as well.

You will be expected to present for 3 to 7 minutes.  Each minute outside that is -4 points.

Note: this rubric can be changed as deemed appropriate by the instructor.   Any change will be clearly explained before the due date.











Responded to the posts of other students

Responded with clever rationale to support your opinion and strong evidences from your own life to defend your position

Responded to all the posts, giving evidence to support your position.

Missed a student’s post, or did not provide evidence to support your opinion on a number of posts.

Did not post appropriately to many students.

The discussion thread question.

The question’s relevance and controversy are explained with supportive research

The question raised has two answers, is arguable for either direction, and is open enough to encourage divergent responses.

The question was not clear, or was not relevant.  The students had difficulty clearly supporting a viewpoint.

Your topic didn’t actually suggest two opposing viewpoints.

Analysis of Student responses

The presentation of the responses was entertaining with research to show which ones are supportable.

Student responses were presented in a manner that was organized, clear, and explained evidences for both sides.

The summary of responses was incomplete or unclear.

I can’t be sure that you read all the responses carefully.


Your conclusion is well enough stated that it is definitively convincing in the face of dissenting evidence.

Your conclusion acknowledges all the opinions and evidence and comes to a final decision that you can defend.

Your conclusion is unsure or does not seem to acknowledge or address opposing viewpoints.

I’m not even sure what you decided.


The presentation was fun showing the use of various digital tools to enhance the experience.

Presentation is clear and engaging. The delivery is smooth without being distracting

The delivery was unpracticed and choppy.  There were many distractions during the presentation.

It was hard to know what your presentation was about.


Rubric for the Article Evaluation

You will be graded out of 100 points (which is the maximum you can earn)

The points are a guide – it is possible to land between two categories and receive points that are between them as well.

Note: this rubric can be changed as deemed appropriate by the instructor.   Any change will be clearly explained before the due date.











Choice of article

Article has been getting a lot of attention from other sources using it to justify action.

Article claims a new finding or improvement citing evidence, although their claim is somewhat questionable

The article is not actually claiming something questionable, or there is not much evidence given.

It’s unclear why you chose this article.

Analysis of evidence

You clearly explained what the evidence indicates with research explaining why it doesn’t necessarily prove the claim

Determined why the article used that evidence, and the limitations for the evidence given

Didn’t understand all the implications of the evidence given, or how there is still room for questioning the claim.

I could not understand what evidence you were citing from the article.

Opposing evidence

Present research showing the article’s claim is false, while still accepting the potential for uncertainty.

You have found evidence that could give alternate explanations for the article’s results. 

The evidence you found was questionable or doesn’t support the opposite of the claim.

There really isn’t any evidence to oppose the claim.

Drawing Conclusions

The report uses both viewpoints to defend a conclusion that is decisive and convincing.

Your conclusion weighs the articles evidence against the opposing evidence and defends a final result.

The conclusion does not weigh both sides of the issue or seems to ignore certain evidence.

I not certain what your conclusion on this was.

Written Report

The report is interesting and entertaining with all the relevant information well written.

The report is well written using proper grammar, organization, and presents thoughts in a clear manner.

The report contains English errors and is confusing or not well organized.

I had a hard time reading and understanding the report.


Rubric for the Statistical Advertising

You will be graded out of 100 points (which is the maximum you can earn)

The points are a guide – it is possible to land between two categories and receive points that are between them as well.

Note: this rubric can be changed as deemed appropriate by the instructor.   Any change will be clearly explained before the due date.











Poster creation

The poster is creative and enjoyable to look at. The poster style adds value to the persuasiveness.

The poster is colorful and imaginative showing effort and planning.

You followed all the rules, but it looks like you did it the day before (or less).

Your poster does not qualify under the rules.

Topic Selection

The topic has research showing the value that it would be to the success of a college student.

The topic is clearly persuading students to improvement and the reasoning is clear.

The topic does not persuade students to improve their life, or is not a strong persuasive argument.

I’m not sure what you’re trying to persuade me towards.

Persuasive Element

The persuasive element contains research which clearly supports the desired outcome.

The persuasive element uses proper statistical methods to support the argument.

The persuasive element is present, but it is not very convincing or clear.

It doesn’t seem to be persuading us the right way.

Manipulative Element

The poster shows research which is flawed or manipulative to support the argument.

There is a part which misuses statistics in a common way to support the argument desired.

The misuse of statistics is questionable or unrealistic or perhaps does not support the argument well.

I can’t tell which aspect of your poster is misusing statistics.


Rubric for the Research Project

You will be graded out of 100 points (which is the maximum you can earn)

You will be expected to present for 9 to 15 minutes.  Each minute outside that is -4 points.

The points are a guide – it is possible to land between two categories and receive points that are between them as well.

Note: this rubric can be changed as deemed appropriate by the instructor.   Any change will be clearly explained before the due date.











Group Cohesiveness

Everyone made a special effort to be involved in every step.

The group worked together without any members left out or slacking off.

The entire group worked on the project, but some did most of the work

I’m not convinced a member contributed adequately.

Personal Support

You personally provided some research that added to the project.

Your part of the group was meaningful and valuable to the final product.

Your contribution to the group was less than expected or distinctly less than others.

I can’t be sure that you contributed to the group

Research Question

Showing outside research verifying this as a success skill.

The question addresses a skill for college success that is not easily verified.

The question of interest is only mildly related to being successful at a university.

I’m not certain what the question is, or how it is helpful to a student.

Sampling Scheme

The scheme shows skill in capturing the best data with limited resources.

The sampling method chosen was appropriate for the resources and question.

The sample was chosen to be convenient although it introduces some bias.

The sampling method puts doubt on all the results.

Data Collection

More data was collected than was actually needed to give extra validity.

The data was collected appropriately and is valid to answer the question.

There was not really enough data collected to validate the conclusions.

I have reason to suspect the data has been falsified.


The conclusions show insight into the data and are well defended in the report.

The conclusion is valid based on the data, and is defended as appropriate in the report.

The conclusions are sketchy, or leave a lot of room for doubt.

I’m not sure what you concluded, or not sure how you justify it.

Written Report

The report is extensive and comprehensive including research to back up the data.

Report is formal in manner with all output explained and all conclusions backed up.

The report uses poor English, and is difficult to follow or understand.

The report is hard to understand and follow.


The presentation is engaging and entertaining showing digital expertise.

The presentation flows smoothly and is clear and easy to understand while defending your conclusion.

The presentation was unrehearsed or had many distractors.

The presentation was confusing leaving me uncertain.

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