Open reviewing process

Living Statistics

Living Statistics

by Brian Williamson -
Number of replies: 7

Hi All,

Please find attached a draft of my article 'Living Statistics'. 

I hope it is of interest. 

Please see my attempts to address the Editorial Boards original comments shown in red. 

Looking forward to hearing from you in due course.

With thanks and best wishes

Brian

In reply to Brian Williamson

Re: Living Statistics

by Jocelyn Demirbag -
Hi Brian,

You have presented a fascinating topic; I have enjoyed thinking about the application of concepts we usually reserve for human beings to numbers. That would be one way to think about it. I suppose what you are arguing is more like the application of your values to working with numbers. I think this is a worthy course of investigation.

The difficulty I am experiencing as I read your paper as it is posted here is that it seems to be trying to do so much. I think it could be much more impactful if you were to show how your values could cause you to look at numbers/statistics differently. However, it would also help me if you listed which values you were focusing on early in the paper. It would also help if the number of values you were focusing on were no more than 3.

I think if you focus on one main point you would be able to organize the paper so that it is fully fleshed out. As it stands you have the idea of applying your values to numbers, the idea of helping students understand statistics through art and values, how you came to some of your previous work, and the whole section at the end in red that I am unsure about what it is demonstrating.

Now granted, I am not a mathematician or a statistician and you might be able to say that I don't understand your paper because I am not strong in these topics. However, I do think that the points you are making are interesting and could be presented much more effectively and persuasively if they were more focused. Perhaps you have 2-3 papers embedded here.

I will post your paper that shows some of the comments I made as I was reading. At this point, I do not think the paper is ready for publication.

Looking forward to learning more,
Jocelyn
In reply to Jocelyn Demirbag

Re: Living Statistics

by Brian Williamson -
Hi Jocelyn,

Thank you for thinking about my submission and for your appreciation of the fun idea of personifying numbers.
I understand that the paper is a bit complicated (!) and am grateful for your comments because I believe they will help me to clarify and edit the messages. My values and beliefs are identified in my 2015 paper where they were used as ‘living axioms’ to support the progression of a taxonomy of learning interactions. I also talk, in the article, of surmised values and believes that could have been held by others (i.e. students, researchers in the past or even characters in a comic strip); and in my 2015 paper, these ‘unlived’ values and beliefs were referred to as ‘toy’.

An explanation at the start of how my values could have caused me to look at numbers/statistics differently would frame the account I agree, and I should cite the values and beliefs identified with Pip. Would this be something that needs adding for the next iteration?

The section at the end in red (as an applied science researcher who uses statistics) cites my lived experience when working on my 2015 paper; and compares the representation of a living theory using mathematics to a situation in which an existing established piece of mathematics can cause a living contradiction in a practitioner, that is, when a researcher is supposed to apply a model that is contrary to their values and beliefs.

I hope that my writing will communicate my living theory that is growing around the values and beliefs I hold about the application of statistics without the reader needing to be a mathematician or statistician. However, it is hard because it is so tempting to include an equation, when after all it is the equation that caused so much angst and sits at the core of my living theory in the first place! Should I write more about my feelings towards these equations?

Yes, perhaps I do need to slow things down and become more focused. The article seems to divide naturally into two parts ‘Living Statistics: my I as a statistics teacher’, and ‘Living Statistics: my I as a statistics researcher’. Do you think this would help?

Thanks for your comments in the text. I will use them when preparing the next iteration(s) along with the feedback from Stephen and Pete.

Looking forward to learning more,
Brian
In reply to Brian Williamson

Re: Living Statistics

by Peter Mellett -
Good afternoon Brian

Following my previous posting, I started to work my way through your main text (as intended) and adding comments in the margin as I felt the need arose. Meeting with Jack and Marie this morning, I understand that the production process at this stage does not permit the luxury of the time required to complete this job. Therefore, I have attached to this posting just the first part of your paper (reformatted to single-line spacing) for which I have completed the process.

It is likely that further annotations would simply be variations on the theme of my current overall reservations. It would perhaps be better for me to be more directive from my point of view . . . . I think that the paper is complete. You have said what you wish to say. The major point now for me is the order in which you state the major elements of your argument and the clarity of the vocabulary that you use.

Suggestion: After 18 years as a secondary school chemistry teacher, I worked as an editor for the rest of my time – initially with science textbooks and then with distance learning MSc teaching and learning materials. My core task in both cases was to remove ambiguity and to ensure that a text had a developmental structure. Reorganisation of the elements in an argument was often the key to producing the final copy-edit. My stratagem when in extremis was to print out the author’s text, tape the sheets together and pin the entire artefact (sometimes one or more square metres in extent) to the wall. I would stand back, ponder, and then advance on this composite with coloured pens in my hand. Blocks of text would be circled and repositioned with an arrow; others would have queries highlighted . . . etc. Then I would return to the word processor and restructure according to this ‘map’ and then complete the process by ’papering over the cracks’.

Were you to do this with your paper at this stage, then your reordering might be partly in response to the questions that have arisen during my repeated readings – as follows.

1. Have I given my readers sufficient initial information to hold an outline (a map) of the journey on which I intend to take them?

2. Have I given my readers sufficient information about the subject-specific vocabulary I shall use, especially terms that are used in common speech to which I attribute more complex meanings?

3. Does each section of my text contain sufficient ‘signposts’ so that my readers know (a) the stage they are at in the argument (as outlined in 1. above) and (b) where this stage is leading?

4. Have I eliminated discontinuities from the text, where the reader might feel they have abruptly been transported off ‘the beaten track’ and onto unexpected territory?

I could write more . . . but Marie has asked me to post to you today!

Best wishes

Peter Mellett
In reply to Jocelyn Demirbag

Re: Living Statistics

by Brian Williamson -
Hi Peter, Jocelyn and Stephen,

Thank you all very much for your feedback and comments on my article. I am going to sit down now and collect all the information and prepare the next iteration for you to consider, hopefully before the end of this month.

Love
Brian
In reply to Brian Williamson

Re: Living Statistics

by Peter Mellett -

Good afternoon Brian -

Jocelyn has already added pertinent questions and comments at several points within your draft paper. I do not wish to repeat in different ways what has already been eloquently said. The following is offered as my personal experience as I set out to read and review your draft, holding in mind, as I usually do, the four review criteria that are central to this exercise i.e.

4. Is there sufficient evidence to support all the claims that are made?

5. Are there sufficient details of how the author has validated their claims?

6. Is the normative background of the author and their work clear?

8.  Are the author's' explanatory principles and living standards of judgment clear in this paper?

However, before I started reading the body of your paper, the title itself gave me cause to stop in my tracks. With the banner of the Educational Journal of Living Theories at the head of the page, I immediately read the first word of your title – Living – as a matter concerned with value; and the second word – Statistics – as a matter concerned with facts.

Now thinking of David Hume and his A Treatise of Human Nature, the phrase came to my mind – whether written by Hume himself or a subsequent commentator I know not – that matters of fact and matters of value constitute separate realms of logical discourse. From the very outset, therefore, it appeared to me that your paper intends to demonstrate the merging of incommensurable paradigms – which, implicit in the definition of incommensurable paradigms, is not possible.

Reading on: in the abstract you state your intention to ...

"... explore the relationship between my lived experience and my understanding, communication and application of statistical ideas".

You speak here of the application of statistical ideas and not just the application of statistics. For me, there is a distinction. As a parallel example, I would be comfortable with a values-based living-theory account of an inquiry into the structural design of a housing estate in a rural area; I would not be comfortable if that account centred on a stress analysis of roof trusses.

In the abstract you go on to claim that you ...

"... can build my living educational theory based on my lived experience of a statistical model; enabling me to present statistical ideas to undergraduate mathematicians and colleagues using a value-based approach ...".  

This process is then reversed, where you say that you will show ...

"... how I, as an applied science researcher who uses statistics, can build a statistical model based on my living educational theory; calling up my lived experiences and capturing and representing them in a mathematical form".

In these two latter extracts you speak of a statistical model, which now joins statistical ideas and statistics from earlier text. What is the relationship between the three – or are they one entity / concept? (I ask this question as one who has zero knowledge of the subject).

Whatever the distinctions between these three terms may or may not be, I understand you to be claiming that 'Statistics' and 'Living Theory' share a common "... set of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and standards for what constitutes legitimate contributions to a field" (stolen from the Wikipedia definition of 'Paradigm'). Can statistics itself – rather than the process of using it in a context – be shown to have a quality of value?

These were the initial thoughts that I held as a 'knee jerk' response to the first page of your paper. I am stuck with this 'horizon of expectation' that emerged from a close look at your title and abstract. I am hoping that, in the course of reading the main text, the concerns I have raised will be addressed (or dismissed) and that we shall achieve a 'fusion of horizons'. (I'm a non-academic amateur in all this and so may have completely mis-represented Hume, Kuhn and Gadamer.)

Best wishes

Peter Mellett



In reply to Brian Williamson

Re: Living Statistics

by Stephen Bigger -
Living Statistics Brian Williamson
An interesting topic, Brian.
First a serious point to attend to – many, maybe most – of the titles in your References are not referred to in the text. That misses the point of references. Either find a way to discuss them or cut them out. Some are old and even very old. Your argument should address the academic climate of 2019, not four decades ago.
Elections in UK and USA is a good time to talk of statistics, and in particular the problematic (fallible) nature of statistics. At the moment, pseudo-stats are being debunked daily. At the start of your paper I felt that interesting things might emerge. I am not a statistician but deal in pedagogy in which the human side of the curriculum through examples and case studies helps understanding. So Living Statistics is a worthy title, exploring how statistics helps (or hinders) understanding of life. Discussion of what statistics mean is crucial, especially whether they mean what their promoters claim they mean. I am a statistic within dozens of categories. None of these occurrences say anything about who or what I am. They are therefore meaningless.
Questions on methodology are therefore crucial. The data comes from somewhere, questionnaires, electronic data sets etc. There is a rubbish in rubbish out argument, which is why I set high validity/credibility tests for stats, especially how the data is obtained and where it comes from. An education which challenges statistics in these ways will set the pupils up for life, critical of claims made in adverts and by politicians. This is what I would hope Living Statistics to embody.
Humanistic statistics is full of uncertainty. I never fill in questionnaires because the questions and options are nonsense. But many do and people make money from their data (and indeed from data unknowing collected on social media). There has never been a more important time to talk about real life statistics.
You mention ‘living contradiction’ as the gap between the subject and your deep values. This is a good place to develop. The things above are somewhere in that gap. The values that you highlight are part of the journey.
Stephen Bigger 8/11/19