Monash poem accepted in international anthology

Dr David Goddard

Dr David Goddard

Congratulations to Dr David Goddard from the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, whose poem, Standard Error, will be published in Teaching as Human Experience: An Anthology of Contemporary Poems. The journal is part of the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL) Anthology Series.

Dr Goddard’s poem also won last year’s inaugural Monash Poetry Competition, an initiative of the Office of the Vice-Provost (Learning and Teaching).

“Last year’s theme was ‘teaching as a learning experience’, and to write a poem about a statistical concept was risky,” said Joy Whitton, promoting excellence consultant within the Office of the Vice-Provost (Learning and Teaching). “David made it a really nice encounter between student and teacher without leaving out the impact of the knowledge itself. And all in iambic pentameter!”

The HETL Anthology Series publishes poetry and creative prose that explores teaching and learning as a human experience. It gives educators worldwide an artistic and literary medium to engage more deeply in the life-altering processes of giving and receiving knowledge. 

Standard error

An inference that’s very often made –

‘a population tends to closely share

some feature that a smaller group displayed’ –

is why my students need to be aware

of standard error. Yet, it’s hard to learn,

and students’ drive to listen fades with each

attempt of mine to strive for ways to earn

attention till my message has its reach.


The teaching cycle brings around today

my yearly chance to make this topic clear.

I’ll aid my students, shorten what I say,


and they can later go and persevere ...

... ask how it differs from the things it’s like,

and why we need it, what we couldn’t do

if it weren’t here. But can my students strike

the hours in busy lives to see this through ...

... to think and tell themselves of things they know ...

related things ... then try to make the link

with standard error, find their gaps and so

seek remedy where knowledge meets its brink?


It’s four months on. A student whom I taught

then calls to see me and in measured way

explains she liked the insight I had brought

to ‘estimation’, then goes on to say:

“My research gathered data from a group,

defined a mob of which the group’s just part;

a feature in the group at six per cent,

would be, I thought, like echoed in the mob.

I viewed the group as sample of the mob;

but samples vary some from whence they’re drawn.

Your standard error helped me calculate

how far from six my estimate might stray.”


She smiles and says she’d thought I’d like to know

that standard error served to underlie

her thinking. Yes, I’m happy that is so –

but more, she’d thought it worth enough to try.


Dr David Goddard

June 2014