James Abdey: an injection of showmanship


Tuesday, 3pm. Peacock Theatre. 60s swing music surround sound. Then the screens turn metallic silver and display a timer, a futuristic female voice counts down “T minus thirty seconds… T minus twenty seconds… Ten Nine Eight…”


“Good afternoon! Hellooo!”
“Are we having a good time?! A very warm welcome to ST102, Elementary Statistical Theory, let’s hear a woohoooo!”

“Hands up if you’ve studied Statistics before.”
“Hands up if you’ve enjoyed Statistics before.”

Welcome to the James Abdey Show. At the LSE, attendance at lectures is not compulsory, but you’d go to this one, wouldn’t you?

“Some advice for you. University level study is very different from what you will have been used to. I’d strongly advise you to read through in your course pack what we will be going through in the lecture – not just for this course, but for all lectures. That way things will be much clearer, new things that you will be introduced to in the lecture itself.”

I wish someone had given me that advice in my first lecture.

James is an extraordinary teacher, part showman, part evangelist. He is a proper product of the LSE. Though born elsewhere, presumably raised by perfectly respectable parents, he spent his doctoral-thesis-writing-years in our Statistics department, testing hypotheses, quantifying inferential decision errors, having all sorts of fun… before being let loose on young minds come to study. The LSE can be proud of him. He is now a Course Tutor in the Statistics Department and lecturer for ST102. There is a passion in him; when he speaks it spills out of his eyes and his mouth and through his gestures into the students who are no doubt congratulating themselves on their shrewd move to study a subject at once important and sexy.

But it’s not all about showmanship and entertainment – James knows that learning happens through repetition, immersion, personal application and questioning. His lectures are all available as Echo Lecture recordings, so that students can review aspects they didn’t quite catch the first time. James was actually one of the first teachers at the LSE to create personal recordings of his material to aid his students’ progress, even before personal capture was rolled out across the School! He offers example workshops and help sessions, a sort of extended mass office hours for students who need or want a little more help. He uses a Q&A forum on Moodle where students can ask even more questions about the material. And he knows how to tell the story of why the analysis of statistical data is of vital importance to social science research.
This year, James was highly commended for the award of inspirational teaching, as voted for by students.

“Absolutely no other academic can match the charisma, passion or intellect of Dr James Abdey. His innovative and ‘out of the box’ teaching style makes learning statistics fun and pleasurable.”
“…his contact hours are unrivalled by other departments.”

When he doesn’t expend his energy on making LSE students appreciate the usefulness of his subject, he spreads the word in the wider world. He connects the reliability of statistical data with the unreliability –or un-knowability- of the human psyche, going in for market research, forensics, and even romantic love.

James gives himself over to his students, he gives his time, his subject knowledge and his joy. But it is equally clear that he does it as much for himself as he does for them. He obviously enjoys performing, and the end result is very satisfied students. What James Did & Does:

  • Created explanatory videos for his students

  • Uses lecture capture to allow students  to listen to parts of his lectures again, for reviewing and revision

  • Offers extra workshop and help sessions for students to ask questions, beyond official class and lecture time and office hours

  • Uses Moodle Forums for online discussions and explanations of unclear points.

Be inspired

If you have your own ideas or have been inspired to re-evaluate your teaching practice, get in touch with your eden.digital departmental advisor or email eden.digital@lse.ac.uk



Interview & Words by Sonja Grussendorf Photo & Video by Aperio Films (2015)