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Author Topic: Another Article on Aging Professors  (Read 43198 times)
oldfullprof
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« Reply #150 on: April 01, 2012, 10:32:58 PM »

Wah?
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spork
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« Reply #151 on: April 02, 2012, 9:03:13 AM »


[. . .]
This pretty well describes my experience in accounting.

Most students of mind who are struggling are struggling because they haven't attempted much of the work, watched the lectures (and even thought of taking notes), or read any of the textbook. Very few of them are struggling because the course material is too difficult intellectually.

Why not give quizzes on the material that they were supposed to have read/problems that they were supposed to have done at the beginning of every class? Or even simpler, just send such students home?

I'm curious as to why we put up with students' behavior that would get them fired in most any job.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2012, 9:03:44 AM by spork » Logged

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fiona
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« Reply #152 on: April 02, 2012, 10:38:58 AM »


[. . .]
This pretty well describes my experience in accounting.

Most students of mind who are struggling are struggling because they haven't attempted much of the work, watched the lectures (and even thought of taking notes), or read any of the textbook. Very few of them are struggling because the course material is too difficult intellectually.

Why not give quizzes on the material that they were supposed to have read/problems that they were supposed to have done at the beginning of every class? Or even simpler, just send such students home?

I'm curious as to why we put up with students' behavior that would get them fired in most any job.

Some answers to this: we need bodies in the classroom to save our own jobs. We need graduation rates to save our funding.

The Fiona
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The Fiona or Them FionŠ or Fiona the Sublime

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« Reply #153 on: April 02, 2012, 1:17:02 PM »


[. . .]
This pretty well describes my experience in accounting.

Most students of mind who are struggling are struggling because they haven't attempted much of the work, watched the lectures (and even thought of taking notes), or read any of the textbook. Very few of them are struggling because the course material is too difficult intellectually.

Why not give quizzes on the material that they were supposed to have read/problems that they were supposed to have done at the beginning of every class? Or even simpler, just send such students home?

I'm curious as to why we put up with students' behavior that would get them fired in most any job.

Some answers to this: we need bodies in the classroom to save our own jobs. We need graduation rates to save our funding.

The Fiona

In addition, one does not fire customers.
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nezahualcoyotl
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« Reply #154 on: April 03, 2012, 6:28:07 PM »

Technology isn't the problem; deciding that one-size-fits-all-purposes and choosing an inappropriate technology is the problem.  After all, a white board is technology.  Pencil and paper are technology.

Very true. If an instructor makes chalk-and-talk work, I don't see the problem. If an instructor can't teach, whether it be with chalk-and-talk or the latest power point version, I do see a problem.

I'm referring to curricular reform mainly in terms of "our major is organized this way because it's always been organized this way," though the model used when the major was created was not common practice even then.

I'm quite willing to trash any pedagogical fad du jour in faculty forums, if evidence points against the fad's effectiveness, and have done so on several occasions. But I find a lot of resistance from older faculty against acknowledging change in disciplinary content knowledge or teaching methods ("what was considered groundbreaking when you were in grad school turned out to be irrelevant") or even in the changing market realities in higher education.

Perhaps the opposite problem is the norm in other fields but in my field, curricula seem to have fossilized, with topics that have been dead for over a century and were moribund long before that, being mandatory even at the PhD level - if something is neither true, nor useful (even the textbooks admit this), nor interesting, it baffles me that it should be mandatory in grad school. In a grad class on it, even the instructor (an older prof, incidentally) said he though there was no point in making grad students take a whole course on it (I agree). In another course, the instructor himself (a fairly young man this time) said his course was pointless, not because the subject itself was pointless but because he had to prepare us for quals and they would probably be all about standard, essentially outdated, textbook stuff, which he thought was pointless, and he would've preferred a more research-and-applications type of course. He was probably right. There were various topics that would've been extremely useful in most or at least many areas in my field that weren't mandatory (unsurprisingly these were mostly stuff that either originated or really took off in the twentieth century). I'm not complaining about teaching techniques in my field being obsolete (I don't think they are, at least not particularly) but about the curricula. So although I hate change for the sake of changing, I can definitely understand frustration with "but it's always been done this way." What was once cutting-edge may now be obsolete and irrelevant.

Now it sounds like we're agreeing that what the PI is supposed to be concentrating on is research, not administration, which I think supports my case on the use of tech tool mastery in evaluating a researcher's ability. (My point was not that the PI needs to know spreadsheeting as well as Akerson does, but rather as little as Akerson does.) - DvF

But as I said a CEO isn't comparable to a PI (after all, companies tend to have just one CEO for a reason (but many middle managers), whereas it's rare for a university to just have one PI but common to have just one President). In any case, I refer you back to my point on the difference between nominal, apparent productivity and actual productivity (researcher vs. being solely a grant application writer). I've never said a PI ought to be concentrating on administration.
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daniel_von_flanagan
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« Reply #155 on: April 03, 2012, 6:34:51 PM »

if something is neither true, nor useful (even the textbooks admit this), nor interesting, it baffles me that it should be mandatory in grad school.
Now you've piqued my interest.  You are in a field that teaches things that are known to be false?  If so, wouldn't this be an argument in favor of using ineffective teaching techniques? - DvF
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parispundit
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« Reply #156 on: April 04, 2012, 2:27:28 AM »

if something is neither true, nor useful (even the textbooks admit this), nor interesting, it baffles me that it should be mandatory in grad school.
Now you've piqued my interest.  You are in a field that teaches things that are known to be false?  If so, wouldn't this be an argument in favor of using ineffective teaching techniques? - DvF

Many fields teach people things that are neither true nor useful. A course in political theory should discuss Marxism, for example.
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fiona
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« Reply #157 on: April 04, 2012, 4:31:09 AM »

Don't economics courses teach models that don't work in the real world?

I know Boyle's and Charles's Law used to be taught in high school chemistry, even though it was known (and said) that they didn't really work.

Courses in history routinely leave out important things, so what is taught is false because it's incomplete.

This is an interesting topic, the teaching of things that are outmoded if not thoroughly false.

I wonder if it happens in all humanities fields.

The Fiona
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The Fiona or Them FionŠ or Fiona the Sublime

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nezahualcoyotl
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« Reply #158 on: April 04, 2012, 4:37:20 AM »

I'm thinking of Classical Mechanics, which has been officially false since 1905. Yes, it's a good approximation in many circumstances, etc, but my point is nobody does any research on it, in practice it's relevant neither to the lab nor to applications (continuum mechanics is useful and technically classical, but it's almost never included in classical mechanics courses, but is taught as a separate (usually non-mandatory) course - so in other words in terms of curricula "classical mechanics" means "all bits of classical mechanics except the ones that are actually useful"), we know it's not fundamentally true, etc. I'm not against having it in undergrad physics curricula, but to have it as a mandatory graduate course makes little sense (and there are classical mechanics instructors that think the same), esp. when you consider that, for example, computational methods (solving problems numerically, simulations, etc) are vital to many physicists and are actually useful outside academia but isn't usually mandatory in grad school, whereas solving problems using the classical Hamiltonian of a bunch of ideal pendulae joined together by harmonic springs in the small angle approximation is only useful if you wind up as an instructor for a classical mechanics course. Sure, it's practice at problem-solving, etc but you could also practice with non-classical problems or with continuum mechanics problems or plain applied math problems. Yes, Hamiltonians appear in quantum mechanics but in practice solving classical Hamiltonian problems isn't helpful for solving quantum problems (besides, any physics major has been doing problems with quantum Hamiltonians at least since sophomore year). It would've made sense to have a mandatory grad course in analytical, non-continuum classical mechanics when it was believed to be fundamentally true and there were no computers to numerically solve problems so you either did it analytically or not at all (and therefore crude approximations were often the only way forward) and it wasn't competing for time, etc with quantum mechanics and so forth, but that era has long been over. It's the equivalent of chemists being forced to take grad courses on phlogiston theory and having it on quals (at least when it comes to highly contrived analytical non-continuum classical mechanics problems). It's not even a case of "what was cutting edge when you were in grad school is now obsolete" but more "what was cutting edge when the Bourbons sat on the throne of France is now obsolete," so talk about fossilized...
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daniel_von_flanagan
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« Reply #159 on: April 04, 2012, 6:27:15 AM »

I suspected you might be talking about something like this (and not the soc sci examples others were suggesting).  In the 1970s there was a fairly strong call to eliminate Calculus from the undergraduate physics curriculum (and do everything in terms of difference equations) for some of these same reasons.  Inertia kept that from happening, which in the long run was a good thing, because it turns out analytic solutions are often useful even in the presence of numerical tools, and that solvable models can give useful insight into qualitative dynamical behavior not obvious in simulation.

Before you dismiss classical Hamiltonian mechanics altogether, you might have a look at what people are doing with geometric control in robotics and biomechanics.  You'll recognize many of the equations and techniques from the areas you want to stop teaching. - DvF
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cc_alan
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« Reply #160 on: April 04, 2012, 7:30:36 AM »

I know Boyle's and Charles's Law used to be taught in high school chemistry, even though it was known (and said) that they didn't really work.

Ideal gas laws are still taught and are still useful. In order to understand the more complex relationships for gases, one typically starts with an ideal model. Once the ideal model is understood, one can then study deviations from ideal situations and the reasons for them.

Alan
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fiona
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« Reply #161 on: April 04, 2012, 1:51:54 PM »

I just started a thread on "False Things We Teach" (on Meet and Greet) to avoiding hijacking this thread entirely.

The Fiona
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The Fiona or Them FionŠ or Fiona the Sublime

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nezahualcoyotl
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« Reply #162 on: April 09, 2012, 4:31:31 PM »

I suspected you might be talking about something like this (and not the soc sci examples others were suggesting).  In the 1970s there was a fairly strong call to eliminate Calculus from the undergraduate physics curriculum (and do everything in terms of difference equations) for some of these same reasons.  Inertia kept that from happening, which in the long run was a good thing, because it turns out analytic solutions are often useful even in the presence of numerical tools, and that solvable models can give useful insight into qualitative dynamical behavior not obvious in simulation.

I fully agree with you on calculus.

Quote
Before you dismiss classical Hamiltonian mechanics altogether, you might have a look at what people are doing with geometric control in robotics and biomechanics.  You'll recognize many of the equations and techniques from the areas you want to stop teaching. - DvF

I suspect very few physicists, relative to the number graduating, work on such technology, and thus little reason why they should be mandatory grad courses when courses on biophysics, materials science, CS, etc usually aren't. I objected to having analytical, non-continuum classical mech. as a mandatory grad course for everyone doing a PhD in physics, not to having it exist altogether - particularly as I'd already taken some Lagrangian and Hamiltonian classical mechanics as an undergrad. But you touch on a big problem I had with the grad courses I took in the US - I expected and hoped they'd be in the spirit of the Feynman Lectures, emphasizing real systems, research, technological applications and physical intuition. Instead I got a deluge of analytical problems often with little obvious connection to experimental reality. To illustrate with another subject, in my undergrad courses on electromagnetism (EM) we went over EM fields in matter, applications of the vaccum equations like synchroton radiation, the transmission of radio waves through water, etc. The Feynman Lectures go further in this direction, delving deeper into the topic of EM fields in matter. Of my grad EM course, I remember it including fairly arcane problems about converting the metric tensor between arbitrary coordinate systems (this wasn't a course on tensors or general relativity) but there was a grand total of less than a whole lecture on EM fields in matter. This was a required course, not an EM for Particle Physicists elective. Worse, in none of these courses did we read or discuss an actual research paper, which I understand is v. different from how grad courses work in the life sciences, for instance. On the bright side, I suppose this sort of thing does work in putting some people off whereas more "realistic" courses might attract more people to a badly overcrowded field (hmmm, maybe particle physics courses should include regular floggings).
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'Education is like a venereal disease; it makes you unsuitable for many jobs, and then you have the urge to pass it on.'
-Terry Pratchett

I do solemnly swear to obey all the laws of thermodynamics.
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