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Peer Review

Decision Bonsai

by David Zeitler


Overall Rating:

2.75 stars
Content Quality: 3.25 stars
Effectiveness: 3 stars
Ease of Use: 1.75 stars
Reviewed: Mar 12, 2010 by Statistics Editorial Board
Overview: The Decision Bonsai are a hybrid of concept maps and decision trees. The website includes an introduction, several picture files, and a poster presentation about the topic. It is intended for instructors, as a way to conceptualize the structure of the different types of hypothesis tests.
Learning Goals: Students will be able to choose the correct statistical inference procedure or probability model. Students will understand the differences in notation in different statistics and probability problems.
Target Student Population: Concept maps could be used at any level statistical survey course. They would need to be adapted to the notation and vocabulary of a specific course. Some of the graphics are intended for a more advanced course.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None.
Type of Material: Reference Material
Recommended Uses: Instructors could incorporate the material into lectures.
Technical Requirements: Internet browser, Adobe reader

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 3.25 stars
Strengths: This material describes a good teaching method and a way for instructors to help their students review and conceptualize the major topics in a statistics course. It covers most inference procedures in an introductory course.
Concerns: The Inference Bonsai describes the explanatory variable as “Explanatory Type” and labels them with parameters (p or μ) rather than categorical or quantitative. Explanatory variables generally do not have a parameter of interest. Portraying one-sample procedures as being an explanatory variable with one category is a stretch. The Inference Bonsai also does not consider model assumptions, as if choosing the correct inference procedure does not depend at all on the validity of the model assumptions. The first branch in the Probability Bonsai isn’t labeled Yes/No. It uses some verbiage I was not familiar with, specifically listing “Compare Means” under a heading of “Proportion”, which confused me.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3 stars
Strengths: I think this could be a very valuable resource for instructors to use as they create lectures and learning materials for a course. It gives students a framework to think about the decisions they have to make.
Concerns: An instructor would have to build their course around this framework for it to be helpful for students. While it makes students think systematically to follow the decision tree, it discourages understanding of why a particular test or probability model is used in a particular situation.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 1.75 stars
Strengths: It’s a good idea, and a good way to conceptualize a statistics course. The pdf introduction makes it clear that these Bonsais are developed throughout the course and do not magically appear in their final form at the end.
Concerns: An instructor would need to take this idea and re-construct it pretty much from scratch in order to use it in a class. That’s not to say it wouldn’t be worth it, but this is not a ready-to-use material. Very visually unappealing. Some of the annotations of the Probability Bonsai are particularly hard to understand.