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Boring professors

  1. Jan 31, 2005 #1
    I've heard a rumor from my dad that Einstein was a boring professor. Is there any truth to this?

    In my experience, my most brilliant professors tend to be boring lecturers. In my last philosophy class my professor was this very smart, analytical man who puts the entire class to sleep. He doesn't seem faze by it and continues lecturing.

    When I took Biology my professor was this old man who kept us interested by showing us this quirky experimental devices he conjured up. One is a chainsaw he made that's supposed to be really sharp then he suddenly stuck his hand in it to our surprise.

    If you're a professor/high school teacher what do you think is the most effective way of keeping the class awake and interested on an otherwise possibly boring topic?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 31, 2005 #2


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    Well, I wear my most low cut blouse...that works for half the class. :biggrin:

    I just don't teach boring stuff. I think it's all about attitude. If you think what you're teaching is boring, you're going to be boring when you teach it. And, if it's that boring, why would you teach it?

    Back when I was a TA and not a professor, so had to teach some of that boring stuff the professors at the time thought was important, I was pretty up front about it with my students. I told them, look, I don't agree with the profs about including all this stuff, but they had to learn it, I had to learn it, and now you have to learn it. It's going to be on the test, so let's just get through it so we can get to the fun stuff that comes after it.

    Pure lecture is the best way to put the class to sleep. I have always preferred a more interactive class. Even in lectures, I pause to ask questions and get answers from students. Just breaking the pattern helps them stay awake. Pausing long enough for students to ask questions is helpful too. Of course, you sometimes then end up with some very unexpected questions, but going through the process of thinking through them and deducing an answer can be very beneficial.
  4. Jan 31, 2005 #3


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    Sure, they seem like they are paying attention, but are listening or just watching?

    As a student, I'll back you up on that. Encouraging open discussion and asking questions really helps keep students awake. I've had to sit through some fairly dismal lectures, with quantitative statistical analysis being the worst. At times, I actually wish the professer would say "Here is an equation, solve it", just to break the tedium of watching a slide show about how to perform statistical tests.
  5. Jan 31, 2005 #4
    Injecting humor in the discussion every once in a while no matter how dry also helps in keeping them alive :biggrin:
  6. Jan 31, 2005 #5


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    Yeah, and the groans after each attempt helps confirm they are still listening. :tongue2:
  7. Jan 31, 2005 #6


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    I have to admit... I don't think I could top that trick. :rofl:
    (That's not a good speaking technique, by the way. Your attention getting step should never kill your main point - just ask James Dobson or a slew of other folks who have had to speak in public).

    I did introduce a lesson on rotational motion by apologizing ahead of time for eating my bagel during the lecture and accidentally nudging it off the table during my apology. Imagine my pain when the bagel lands with the cream cheese side down. The idea was to lure someone into saying the fact that it landed with the cream cheese side down as being due to Murphy's Law so I could correct them - No, it's Newton's Law, you dummy! After a few re-enactments, I usually have enough questions on the whiteboard to answer during the lecture that it keeps their attention.

    There's actually an equation that covers how far the bagel (or toast) will rotate based on its length and the height of the table (this experiment would rarely work in a Japanese traditionalist restaraunt). Of course, the chances the bagel and toast will react perfectly depend on a couple of other variables as well. The harder and more uneven the surface the bagel lands on, the better the odds of getting a bad bounce and having the bagel land right side up. Plush carpeting in a room with no strong air currents generally gives the best chance of the bagel landing with the cream cheese side down, just the way Newton's laws tell you it should.

    Or, in other words, if an average size bagel or piece of toast is nudged off a table of average height, the odds of landing with the cream cheese or the butter side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet, even if it has nothing to do with Murphy.
  8. Jan 31, 2005 #7
    My high school calc teacher brought in doughnuts one time to demonstrate integrating a torus (is that what it is called, I can't remember). He cut the doughnut real thin to show us what dx was, but the doughnut did not cooperate, it fell apart and crumbled onto the floor, but we got the idea, and then ate the box of doughnuts :smile:
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