Saturday, May 15, 2010

In praise of mediocre teaching!

Actually, the title is deliberately provocative.

Over the years I have noticed in myself and younger colleagues, particularly those teaching a course for the first time, the tendency to get bogged down in endlessly fine-tuning lecture notes, power point presentations, and assignments.

Some problems with this are:
1. the time could better spent cutting out material and introducing new methods such as peer-instruction teaching
2. teaching is only part of your job and you need to be carefully not to neglect research, supervision, and "admin"
3. you can always improve it next year

So it isn't perfect! Live with it!

1 comment:

  1. I recall a lecturer who would hand out photocopies of handwritten notes that presented the main ideas - diagrams, equations and maybe a couple of dot points.
    Often it was not clear what the equations and diagrams referred to, or where they came from (he would explain them in the lecture, but it wasn't always easy for students to follow his explanations).

    His assignment questions were half about the material in lectures (filling in derivations, applying equations) and half very broad questions that would require additional research ("design a system that does ____").

    Consequently everyone who passed this course developed good research skills - we would have to go and look up what the equations and diagrams meant in books, and look up equations and data not presented in lectures to solve assignment questions.

    I doubt he would have spent an excessive amount of time preparing the lectures, and because they weren't clear (though clear enough to give us a starting point) we learned more about learning than we would have in a well-written presentation. (Though we students hated it!)

    On the other hand another way of not spending much time on lectures is to read a book out verbatim.