Statistics in need of normal distribution

For everyone enrolled with the bachelor of business and economics at Lund University the introductory course in statistics is mandatory for the third semester. It is then vital for the course to keep a high standard. Recent students, however, do not all agree that that has been the case. Two separate worlds characterize the lectures from the two teachers teaching the exact same material at different times of the day and for two separate, assigned groups of students. One teacher has to lecture for almost empty seats, since most of their students – contrary to given instructions – have migrated to the other lecturer, where instead the hall is so full that students have to sit in the stairway or arrive well before the class starts for a chance to get a seat. One student I talk to sees the reason as a perceived difference in quality of teaching between the two.

“The root of the problem was one of the teachers’ tendency to give wrong answers to the calculations, which results in one possibly getting a wrong answer on the tests.”

When I speak to the director of studies, Jakob Bergman, he is hesitant to give me an answer to how this problem can be solved.

“This has been an issue since autumn, if not long before that, but I understood it as being most critical in autumn.”

– Do you have any action plan on how to deal with this?

“It’s hard for us to do anything. We have discussed this with the council for the economics bachelor last in january, but the reason for the problem is that students are not attending the classes they are scheduled to attend. We would rather not arrive at a situation where we start using attendance lists or a system with cards you need to show, like some other institutions have previously used. It gets very bureaucratic. Our hope is for the students to realize on their own that is creates problems for themselves and others if they don’t follow their own schedule.”

– But if this problem has persisted since autumn, can one really expect the problem to get better for the next semester?

“I don’t know if I can give you a straight answer to whether the situation will better or worsen in the future. The root of the issue often that a rumour arises that one teacher is better than the other. What we try to do is keep a dialogue with the students and explain to them that it creates problems if they do this”

– But you do not have a plan on how to deal with this?

“No, we have not created a plan. I have a hard time seeing any other solution than to start with ID controls, but that is messy on an administrative level.

I also spoke with the project leader for the education committee at LundaEkonomerna, Sandra Skilberg, to hear if she knew how to help.

“I would suggest a group of student to gather and send a collective email, since we have not gotten any complaints yet. We are not unaware of this problem, since several members have taken the class, but our workload is heavy and we need the issue on paper in order to start dealing with it.”

It seems there is no clear solution in sight for the statistics classes to come. Does this mean that everyone just needs to accept the situation? The question is if the fault lies with the institution, the teachers or the students themselves. Should the institution accept students not following their own guidelines, to the loss of everyone? Are the teachers meant to have no control over their class sizes? Are the students supposed to come to terms with choosing a lecture that they sense will have a negative impact on their own grades? What is clear is that things will not change if someone does not take action, in one way or another.

Photo: Lund University 


Walter Behrman

Editor-in-chief of Nådiga Lundtan, Fall 2018

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