Each of us (Jonathan Templin and Lesa Hoffman) has been teaching workshops in advanced quantitative methods since 2004. Collectively, we have taught a variety of topics, in a variety of formats, using a variety of software packages, in a variety of locations both domestically and internationally. These experiences have helped shape our philosophy on what we think makes for a good, useful workshop, from both the instructor and participant points of view. We have incorporated this philosophy into the design of our Stats on the Beach workshops and offer the following rationale:
- We understand that attention is a limited resource. No matter how interesting the material, no matter how engaging the instructor, we know there is an upper limit to the amount of new ideas, new vocabulary, and new procedures that can be absorbed in one day, even with breaks for snacks and lunch. Thus, rather than continue to push both participants and instructors past this limit, we have structured our workshops to include two 2.5-hour sessions with a 3.5-hour mid-day break in between. While also serving a non-pedagogical goal of allowing you to enjoy the beauty of the beach, we hope this also allows each session to have a greater impact than would a more continuous traditional (overwhelming) format.
- We understand that workshops are not one-size-fits-all. We believe intensive workshops like these are most useful to persons who have already tried on their own (with varying degrees of success) to acquire the material to be presented. For this reason, each workshop has recommended readings to encourage participants to gain exposure to the material prior to arrival. In addition, the content of the longitudinal workshops has been separated into introductory and advanced sessions (separated by a full day), so that participants can join at the level where they feel most ready.
- We understand that grasping the bigger picture is a pre-requisite to determining which details you need to master. For each of our workshop topics, there are dozens and dozens of available textbooks, as well as an infinite amount of instructor content and examples available via Google. But what is often hardest to determine is where to start! This realization has shaped the way we conceptualize and present our material. For instance, latent variable measurement models are often presented as separate silos of information (e.g., separate workshops on structural equation models, item response theory models, diagnostic classification models). But for what kind of data, measurement goals, and research questions would each be useful in the first place? Can they be combined for even more flexibility? This is the bigger picture behind Integrated Latent Variable Measurement Models. Likewise, there are approximately one bazillion permutations of multilevel models for longitudinal data, and it can be challenging to determine the specific instantiation that best suits the needs of a given project. Our aim for these workshops is to emphasize general principles by which to make these decisions, so that your subsequent efforts to acquire the details can be more focused and relevant.
- We understand that you are there to talk to us. Why do people come to workshops? We believe it is to get individual advice and support as to what direction(s) they should focus their learning efforts for a given project, because the best textbook in the world is never going to be able to tell you exactly what you should do. For that reason, we hope participants will take advantage of our offer for individual consultation sessions during the mid-day breaks. And although we can’t be everyone’s personal consultant when they get back home, we hope that the workshop and our individual attention can provide you with the necessary direction and stepping stones so that you can continue to learn on your own.