Teaching Statistics

Using a discussion about scientific controversy to teach central concepts in experimental design

Journal Article

Summary

Students may need explicit training in informal statistical reasoning in order to design experiments or use formal statistical tests effectively. By using scientific scandals and media misinterpretation, we can explore the need for good experimental design in an informal way. This article describes the use of a paper that reviews the measles mumps rubella vaccine and autism controversy in the UK to illustrate a number of threshold concepts underlying good study design and interpretation of scientific evidence. These include the necessity of sufficient sample size, representative and random sampling, appropriate controls and inferring causation.

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