SOCI832: Lesson 1.2 Introduction to SOCI832


SOCI832 Unit Guide

SOCI832 Overview on


Tools for learning

Google Docs

Live coding

Post-it Notes



Unit Guide

Philosophies of learning

Typos are the pedagogy

Perseverance predicts success

The need for vulnerability and safety

Avoiding dismissive language

Code of Conduct

Rule of 7

Building on existing knowledge

Using examples, analogies, drawings, and exercises

Taking breaks

Focusing on fundamentals


Timing: 30 minutes


  • What is the structure of this course?
  • What is live coding?
  • What is the purpose of the post-it notes?
  • What about the Google Doc?
  • What do I need to do before class?
  • How do I access information about the course?
  • What are the teaching philosophies behind this class?


By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Summarise the most important parts unit guide
  • Participate in live coding, and use post-it notes and Google Docs
  • Describe what preparation needs to be done before class
  • Identify how to access information about course
  • Explain the meaning of main teaching philosophy behind the course, including:
    • “Typos are the pedagogy”
    • Avoiding dismissive language
    • Software Carpentry Code of Conduct

1. Google Docs

We will use a Google Doc as a place for us to do in class exercises.

It allows everyone to type at once, and each of us to review each other’s comments and answers.

This is a link to the Google Doc for this week’s class.

If you can’t access, please request access via Google Docs or ask Nick in class.

Exercise 1: Sign-in on Google Docs

To make sure you can access google docs, please type in your name, and also provide a few sentences to share some information about yourself.

  • Your name
  • What is your professional background or plans?
  • What do you hope to get out of this course (SOCI832)?

Exercise 2: The best course you studied

What was the best course you ever studied? What made it so great?

  • Please answer on the Google Doc next to your name.

2. Tools to make this course better

We are going to use a few different techniques to help make this course the best learning experience it can be.

2.1 Live coding

We are going to do live coding in this class.

This means - when I’m teaching R - I will most teach with R/R Studio open, and be typing commands, and you will be expected to type along with me.

There are a number of reasons why this is important:

  • You remember what you do, better than what I say.
  • You get to make R work on your computer - a feeling of power
  • If you have trouble, we can troubleshoot in class - not when you are home alone and without easy assistance.

Box: Tips for making live coding work

To make live coding work as a learning tool I strongly recommend:

  1. Bring your laptop to class
  2. Bring your power cord for your laptop to class
  3. Type the code yourself 🡄 Most important!

    Don’t cut and paste the code from or the Google Doc.

    As we will discuss later, “the typos are the pedagogy”.

    When you type:

    • You will notice things about the code you wouldn’t otherwise.
    • You will also make mistakes which will help you learn.

      It is much better for your leave the inverted commas or use the wrong equal sign in class, rather than when you are home alone.

2.2 Post-it notes

You will notice a set of post-it notes on your desk.

2.2.1 Red and Green Post-its

Red and Light Green post-it notes are for posting on your laptop when we do exercises, or ANYTIME you have a problem or a question.

Box: What do green and red the post-it notes mean?

Green post-it == “I’m finished”

Red post-it == “I am stuck” or “I would like help” or “I don’t understand”

2.2.2 Multiple Choice: A,B,C,D,E

There are also a set of post-it notes for doing in-class multiple choice questions.

These can be a fun way to gauge where the class is, and work out which issues everyone understands - and so we can move on - and which ones people are struggling with - we need to revise.

When we do multiple choice questions (MCQs) please don’t lift your post-it note with the answer until I say “Go”. This will give everyone a chance to answer at the same time.

Box: What do multiple choice post-it notes mean?

If your post-it notes don’t have letters written on them, please write on them yourself now with a pen or marker.

Please use this color code:
A - Orange
B - Blue
C - Yellow
D - Dark Green
E - Purple

2.3 Other resources

You should already be familiar with most of these resources, but just in case, these are the other main resources for the course.

2.3.1 The Textbook

The textbook for the course is essential.

Field, A., Miles, J., and Field, Z. (2012). Discovering statistics using R. Sage publications.

You can access the textbook here:


The best place to get course materials and assistance for this course is the website

This website will have:

  • all the lectures and exercises
  • all the material on using R from Dr Hang Young Lee’s course SOCI830 last semester.

2.3.3 iLearn

I will also upload information to iLearn, as is required by the university.

iLearn is also where:

  • you should submit your final assignments, and
  • the mid-term and final exams will be hosted.

2.3.4 Unit guide

The unit guide is the most important official document governing this course. It is our own private contract with each other, so it is important you are familiar with it’s contents.

2.3.5 Nick’s contact details

You may contact me the following ways.

NOTE: In general, for helping with technical issues (questions about R/R Studio or about course content like statistics), my preferred method is WhatsApp or Facebook messenger as it is easier for us to correspond quickly and easily, and use screenshots.

  • Phone/SMS/WhatsApp: +61 (0) 490 911 666
  • Facebook messenger:
  • Skype: nick_harrigan
  • Email:
  • Alternate email: Gmail messages are likely to get through quicker, and less likely to get caught in a spam filter. Do not use Gmail for important official correspondence, such as grade queries or appeals or complaints. Please use address for these, as we need to have an independently archived set of records. This protects both your interests and mine.
  • Face-to-face consultations: 4:00pm-5:45pm Mondays of teaching weeks, MQ Library Cafe.

3. Philosophies to make this course better

I want to take a moment to explain some of the philosophies I try to use myself, and instill in students.

I hope these philosophies will help you get the most out of this course.

3.1 Mindsets for successful learning

Learning statistics, quantitative methods, and programming in R can be challenging for many people.

It is important that you know that some mindsets really help successful learning of these skills (and other mindsets really hinder).

Acknowledgement: Much of this section of this lesson is derived from The Carpentries: Intructor Training

3.1.1 Typos are the pedagogy

The typos are the pedagogy.

— Emily Jane McTavish

One of the most important philosophies when engaging in computer programming is to embrace your ‘typos’ as:

  • normal, even experts do them ALL THE TIME.
  • learning experiences, from which you can grow and learn (for example, how to debug, and how to find solutions to your problems on the internet).
  • no reflection on your inherent worth.

One of the most important skills you will develop in this course is how to recover from an error.

Even expert programmers and statisticians know only a small amount of their field.

What makes them experts is they know how to ‘debug’ their mistakes, how to ask questions and search for solutions to their problems.

3.1.2 Perseverance Predicts Success

Another important philosophy successful learners adopt is that of ‘perserverance predicts success’.

Especially in computer coding, quantitative methods, and statistics - which can be challenging for many people (including me!) - the important predictor of whether a student will eventually master a skill is whether they show perseverance - what is often called ‘grit’ in the popular literature.

‘Grit’ matters because learning takes time and effort.

Much of this effort is simply practice - developing mastery require considerable time practicing our skills at the edge of our abilities. We need to be stretching ourselves to really improve.

‘Grit’ also matters because learning is about hitting difficulties and then overcoming them. We need ‘grit’ to debug our code. We need ‘grit’ to find out why our results are different to what we thought they would be. We need ‘grit’ to accept criticism, and get up tomorrow and revise what we thought was a perfect analysis or manuscript.

3.1.3 Learning requires vulnerability + safety + balanced feedback

Learning also requires us to be able to admit mistakes and to be open to constructive criticism.

We all need guidance if we are to progress.

There are people who understand particular areas of knowledge better than us. And to be open to learning, we need to be open to the fact that we don’t know, that we make mistakes, and we need to be able to take criticism.

However, we all know criticism is difficult to take when the stakes are too high.

When our ego is at risk. When there is a job, or money, or grades on the line, we don’t tend to be open to criticism. We tend to be defensive, and protective. And rightly so.

But this defensiveness is a barrier to learning, and thereby to our own growth.

Thus, the flipside of being open to criticism is creating a safe enviroment in the class room for students to explore, experiment, and practice.

And creating this safe environment is what the next few points are about.

3.1.4 Avoiding dismissive language

One rule which comes from The Carpentries - a consortium of volunteers who teach various open source software (such as R, Python, Git, Bash) - is that we should avoid ‘dismissive language’ in the class room.

What is dismissive language? It is language which ‘makes light’ of a problem, a question, an issue. Dismissive language says you don’t need to take into consideration something or someone.

What are some examples of dismissive language?

  • Almost anytime you use the word “just”, as in “You just need to type ‘install.packages’.”
  • “That’s easy”
  • “I can’t believe you didn’t know that.”

What is the problem with dismissive language?

  • It makes light of learning that some people will find challenging.
  • It suggests a level of assumed knowledge, which shouldn’t be assumed.
  • It makes the audience feel stupid, and the speaker feel good about themselves.
  • It is one of the easiest forms of disrespectful, contemptuous, or scoreful behaviour. There are very few social sanctions on dismissive behaviour, and most people can do it and not even think of themselves as rude or arrogant or anti-social.

We need to avoid and reduce such status games - put downs, and putting ourselves on a pedistal - if we are to have a constructive learning environment.

In these classes there is no assumed knowledge which is not worth revising or questioning. We are all free to ask questions about things we don’t understand. And we should all try our best to explain - without condesention or airs of status - concepts, ideas, or skills that other people in class feel they need to understand better.

Asking for questions

One practice I am going to try to implement is change the way I ask for questions. Compare the following:

  • ‘Does anyone have any questions?’ This can be dismissive, and doesn’t encourage questions.
  • ‘What questions do you have?’ Assumes there will be questions. Makes questions normal. It encourages learns to clarify things they don’t understand or don’t agree with.

3.1.5 Software Carpentry Code of Conduct

Another important part of creating a safe and constructive learning environment is to ensure we all treat each other with professionalism, respect, and courtesy at all times.

In many ways the rule for professional, respectful, and courteous behaviour is simple: Don’t be an jerk. As one famous Stanford professor expressed it in a book title: “The No Asshole Rule”

However, it is easier for everyone if we outline what we mean by this in a little more detail.

There is no fixed code for this class, but I will use the Software Carpentry’s Code of Conduct as a reference point for judging both my own and others behaviour.

I’ve extracted the most important sections of that Code here for us all to read:

Extract from The Carpentries Code of Conduct

Expected behaviour

All participants in our events and communications are expected to show respect and courtesy to others. All interactions should be professional regardless of platform: either online or in-person. In order to foster a positive and professional learning environment we encourage the following kinds of behaviours in all events and platforms:

  • Use welcoming and inclusive language
  • Be respectful of different viewpoints and experiences
  • Gracefully accept constructive criticism
  • Focus on what is best for the community
  • Show courtesy and respect towards other community members

Note: See the four social rules for further recommendations.

Unacceptable behaviour

Examples of unacceptable behaviour by participants at any event/platform include:

  • written or verbal comments which have the effect of excluding people on the basis of membership of any specific group
  • causing someone to fear for their safety, such as through stalking, following, or intimidation
  • violent threats or language directed against another person
  • the display of sexual or violent images
  • unwelcome sexual attention
  • nonconsensual or unwelcome physical contact
  • sustained disruption of talks, events or communications
  • insults or put downs
  • sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, or exclusionary jokes
  • excessive swearing
  • incitement to violence, suicide, or self-harm
  • continuing to initiate interaction (including photography or recording) with someone after being asked to stop
  • publication of private communication without consent

3.1.6 Don’t take over other people’s keyboards.

We all want to be helpful, but the it doesn’t help other learners when we do the work for them.

Rule: When you help other students (and when I help students), don’t take over their keyboard. Instead, force yourself to explain everything with words (and if necessary, pointing at the screen). This will help you be more articulate, and it will help empower the other learner.

3.2 Avoiding Feeling Overwhelmed (i.e. “May I leave. My Brain Is Full.”)

Learning is like building a pyramid:

  • You build it one stone at a time
  • Getting to greater heights requires solid foundations

When we try to do too much at one time - when we try to build with many stones at once - we get overwhelmed.

When we try to reach great heights without getting the fundamentals right, we can make life very difficult for ourselves - unnecessarily so.

3.2.1 Rule of 7 +/- 2: Break learning into smaller lessons with limited concepts.

Building one stone at a time- for a the learner - means we can only learn a certain, limited amount of content at any one time.

Psychologists talk about the rule of 7 - which means that in general we can only keep 7 (+/- 2) new ideas or concepts in our head at one time.

The original study that came up with the 7 +/- 2 rule was actually referring to 7 numbers - phone digits - so we aren’t talking about very complex concepts.

So to learn, what we need do is try to focus on learning a small number of concepts at anyone time.

To faciliate this, I will try to break up our classes into smaller lessons, which deal with a limited number of concepts. We will then do an exercise, before moving on to a new topic.

3.2.2 Building on Existing Knowledge, and Using Examples, Analogies, Drawings, Exercises

One way to help pass these 7 +/- 2 concepts into our long term memory, and into our deeper understanding is to use various short cuts.

Build on existing knowledge: When we build on existing knowledge - things we already know - we can build on things that are already in long term memory.

Concrete examples: When we think about concrete examples of concepts we are learning, we can capture many moving, interrelated parts into one idea, which can be easier to remember and understand.

Analogies: When we use analogies - parallel phenomena that show similar characteristics to what we are studying - we can apply complex relationships from one domain. For example we might apply the common notion of a ‘chicken and egg’ (two things which are each the cause of the other - a mutually virtuous cycle) to the idea of ‘self-esteem and success’. In this way, the analogy helps us conceptualise the mutually reinforcing relationship of these two concepts.

Drawings: Using drawings can also work in a similar way to examples and anologies, helping us to capture a lot of complexity in a simple diagram.

Exercises: Similarly, apply our knowledge to exercises can help bring all the various moving parts and concepts together in a concrete example, and make learning easier and faster, as well as helping it to ‘stick’ in our heads.

3.2.3 Breaks

Taking regular breaks is important for our learning. I will try to incorporate at least one or two breaks into each three hour class, to help everyone’s learning.

3.2.4 Focus on fundamentals, and build up

And like the pyramid, we need to focus on building on solid foundations. None of us have a perfect education, so don’t feel inadequate or like an imposter if your maths isn’t the best, or you don’t really understand what the difference between mean and median is, or the difference between standard deviation and standard error.

However, while you are NOT an imposter, and you shouldn’t feel inadequate, you SHOULD feel motivated to identify and then try to slowly master the parts of your foundations that are weaker.

In all honesty, Wikipedia is often a good place to start. So is Google. And some basic textbooks.

Take the time to write down concepts, ideas, skills you feel weak in, and take a little bit of time when you are studying - or waiting for a bus or a doctor - and try to brush up.

4. The Unit Guide

The Unit Guide contains all the relevant official information about the course, including the assessment.

Rather than explaining what you have already hopefully read, we are going to do a quick in-class quiz.

We will use the five coloured post-it notes for this.

Quiz: How well do you know the unit guide?

1. Where and when are drop-in face to face consultations each week?

  1. Library cafe, 4pm - 5:45pm Mondays, before class, including break weeks
  2. This room, 4pm - 5:45pm Mondays, before class, including break weeks
  3. Library cafe, 4pm - 5:45pm Mondays, before class, not including break weeks
  4. This room, 4pm - 5:45pm Mondays, before class, not including break weeks

2. According to the unit guide, which of the following will not increase your grade for ’Participation in Weekly Classes (25%)?

  1. Asking questions of the lecturer and other students,
  2. Demonstrating that you have done readings,
  3. Listening and responding to comments and questions from the lecturer and other students,
  4. Undertaking in-class exercises,
  5. Asking questions and sharing your thoughts so much that it prevents other students from participating

3. The (1) mid-term and the (2) presentation and report in week 7 are TOGETHER worth how much of your overall grade for the course?

  1. 0%
  2. 5%
  3. 10%
  4. 25%
  5. 50%

4. The mid-term is in which week?

  1. Week 6
  2. Week 7
  3. The mid-semester break
  4. Week 8
  5. There is no mid-term

5. The mid-term and final exam are:

  1. open book
  2. closed book

6. The major assessment task for this class is (worth 50% of your overall grade) is replicating a published study with public dataset (due in Week 13, with a preliminary presentation and report due in Week 7). Which of the following do you NOT have to have done by Week 7:

  1. Identified the article
  2. Downloaded the dataset
  3. Conducted preliminary univariate and bivariate analysis
  4. Conducted multivariate analysis

7. By which week should you have identified an articles whose analysis you wish to replicate, and shown this to Nick and got his approval?

  1. Week 4
  2. Week 6
  3. Week 7
  4. Week 8

8. The final exam is in week:

  1. Week 12
  2. Week 13
  3. Week 14

9. The final exam is in this room:

  1. Yes
  2. No

Last updated on 29 July, 2019 by Dr Nicholas Harrigan (