Thursday, November 17, 2011
Esther Isabelle Wilder
Whether its data from the Cremation Association of North America or the Census Bureau, students in Professor Esther Isabelle Wilder's classes at Lehman College in New York City will always find themselves actively engaged in data analysis. Wilder says, "I find that when my students are actively engaged in data analysis in my classes they learn to appreciate the relevance of the material to their lives and the active learning exercises strengthen their critical thinking skills, particularly insofar as quantitative reasoning is concerned. Moreover, they gain a better understanding of the scientific process and how to make sense of data using computer software. These are skills whose importance extends far beyond any sociology class." She adds, "Doing data analysis also enhances their understanding of course content. For example, in discussing changing mortality patterns across time and throughout the world, the process of gathering data and actually documenting this firsthand promotes an understanding of these trends in a way that lecturing and/or reading about them never could."
Esther Isabelle Wilder is Associate Professor of Sociology at Lehman College, the City University of New York and a member of the Doctoral Faculty at CUNY Graduate Center. She currently teaches Sociology of Healthcare or the Sociology of Death, Dying and Bereavement, directs a Quantitative Reasoning (QR) initiative at the City University of New York (CUNY), and co-directs Lehman College’s QR program. Among her publications are articles in Teaching Sociology on matters related to the quantitative literacy of students, "A Qualitative Assessment of Efforts to Integrate Data Analysis throughout the Sociology Curriculum: Feedback from Students, Faculty and Alumni," (2010) and "Responding to the Quantitative Literacy Gap among Students in Sociology Courses" (2009).
"I also believe that data analysis cannot be treated as an isolated component of course instruction and to the extent that these materials are interwoven into the course content and instructional goals of the course, I think that their success is guaranteed. Students benefit from engaging in all aspects of the scientific process of inquiry using data, including reviewing the literature, formulating hypothesis, engaging in data analysis, interpreting results, and drawing conclusions and communicating results. Revision is also an important pedagogical tool in promoting this kind of instruction since students don't always get things right the first time and benefit from feedback that helps them to strengthen their work" Wilder states.
Wilder recommends resources to her colleagues like those found on TeachingWithData.org and other repositories for use in the classroom and says, "With the proliferation of data resources on the Internet, there is really a wonderful array of opportunities for faculty from all social science disciplines . . . to engage students in active learning doing data analysis."
Professor Wilder earned her PhD in Sociology from Brown University in 1997 and has taught in the Sociology Department at Lehman College since 2002. Lehman College hosts its own collection of modules and resources for sociology instruction (http://www.lehmanida.org/) and has a team of CUNY faculty who are creating a new QR instructional Web site for faculty planned to be housed at the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College.