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Doing things differently than taught in class?

  1. Sep 3, 2015 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    hi everyone i just wanted to know if you guys think this is a wise decision to do throughout school. When my professors teach me a new subject/method to do something i usually disregard it and learn different methods producing the same answers most of the time sometimes im wrong. for example in my digital logic class, we were asked to minize a state table by figuring out which states are equivalent by dividing up the states into different sections based on output, almost like a binary tree method. well i read some other digital logic book and they did it in a completely different way and i did that method on the final and was struggling with that particular problem despite earning a good score on the final. my professor knew that method when i went to his office hours and told me i should stick to the class method. do professors like when students venture off methods?

    2. Relevant equations


    3. The attempt at a solution
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2015 #2

    Mark44

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    Disregarding the subject or technique is probably not a good idea. They might have in mind a different, but related, concept a little later in the course that is built from the technique they're presenting. It's OK to look at different ways to get to an answer, but you should also be able to do things the way you're being taught. As you said, sometimes the way you've chosen doesn't produce the correct result.
    Sometimes your professor will state that he/she wants a problem done by a particular technique. If you use some other technique than the one specified, you'll probably get either no credit for your work, or at best, only partial credit. It seems to me that you are wasting the money you're spending on tuition if you ignore what your instructor is doing.
     
  4. Sep 3, 2015 #3

    SteamKing

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    Note: Not a HW type problem or question, so this thread has been moved to the Academic Guidance forum.
     
  5. Sep 4, 2015 #4

    cgk

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    @OP: If you are just told to solve a certain problem, you are free to do it as you like. But if the task is explicitly to solve a given problem with a specific method, you have to use it to get full credit.

    There are reasons to force certain methods for solving a certain problem. In particular, if the goal is to get you to learn the general method of solving a class of problems, not how to solve this particular problem. The specified method may be more general (applicable to more problems than the method you use) or more powerful (say, better analytic/numerical properties) than some other method. Or the entire point of the problem is to get you to learn about a peculiarity of the method, or about the difference of using one method versus some other method. In these cases you have to trust your teacher---if he/she explicitly tells you to do so in a certain way, then there is probably a good reason for it.
     
  6. Sep 4, 2015 #5

    symbolipoint

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    A very important method of operation is, "Follow instructions".
     
  7. Sep 4, 2015 #6

    Choppy

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    It's important to think out of the box and it's great to independently seek verification of the methods that you are learning and alternative methods.

    What concerns me is that the language used by the OP indicates that he or she is systematically disregarding the methodology covered in the course. I don't think this is a good idea, because as others have pointed out there are often reasons for teaching the material in certain ways that aren't always apparent at first. Particularly in STEM fields, programs are desined to establish foundations of knowledge and skill and then build on those. If you do things independently when you're establishing you're foundation you'll struggle that much more as you progress.

    You have to understand what's inside the box in the first place before you can effectively think outside of it.

    With respect to professors liking or disliking alternative methods - that can be tricky. While independent approaches demonstrate resourcefulness and should be encouraged at the end of the day you're making your professor's job more difficult. When you're marking work, you don't just have to know that something IS right or wrong, but you need to WHY it is right or wrong. So having to go through an alternative method generates more work for the professor and puts you at risk in that if you've made a small error somewhere, if the alternative method isn't immediately recognized you may not get the part marks you otherwise would have.
     
  8. Sep 4, 2015 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    I agree with Choppy. Also, sometimes the thing being taught is the technique itself. Suppose you were asked to solve a quadratic with Newton's iteration. Nobody would ever do that in real life, but if you solve it with the quadratic equation, you'll miss the entire point of the exercise.
     
  9. Sep 4, 2015 #8
    Sometimes you are constrained such that even if some method was better than the one being implemented, you might literally not be allowed to use it for any number of reasons such as funding, tradition, ease of implementation, etc; all of which you'll find in EE.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2015
  10. Sep 4, 2015 #9

    micromass

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    This reminds me of a class I TAed. In the class, I presented a very general method for proving something is a compact operator. It is a method that doesn't fail a lot of time. I illustrated the method with a simple example. But it was later I realized the example I taught was too simple, because people came up to me later and said they found a much much much shorter proof. They were right of course, but their proof would fail in quite a lot of places, while my proof was more complicated but doesn't fail. I tried to make this clear to the class, but many apparently didn't listen and just studied the simpler proof. So when the professor asked a similar problem on the exam, the ones who studied the simpler proof failed that problem because it wasn't applicable.

    Well, it makes it clear that I should have chosen a somewhat better illustration for the method. But I think it also makes it clear to the OP that disregarding techniques is a very bad idea.
     
  11. Sep 4, 2015 #10

    Merlin3189

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    I would suggest that, the enthusiastic and enterprising student would follow the method suggested first and then show any other method they want. The professor will then be pleased, because he got what he asked for, and may be impressed by the other method. Even if the alternative method turns out to be deficient in some way, then the prof will still be impressed by the effort and more inclined to give time to help the student understand the alternative method better.
     
  12. Sep 5, 2015 #11

    symbolipoint

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    Along the same line as what has already been said:
    There was a very fine professor teaching Physics 1 - Calculus based mechanics, who said and emphasised, LISTEN, READ, AND FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS. He re-emphasised this for the class'es first test. Most students did not follow instructions, and did not score credit on several test questions. These instructions were regarding rounding of answers, and keeping certain results in symbolic form. Students need to learn to pay attention and follow instructions, sometimes the hard way.
     
  13. Sep 5, 2015 #12
    I had a math professor like this (linear algebra). Somewhere in the questions it would say box the answer or circle the answer, if no answer exists write, "cannot be done" under the answer line, stuff like that. I felt she went a bit too far. The tests were long, hard to finish in time and this made it so much more tedious and time consuming because . It got so bad she ended up having to waste 2 class periods letting people try and finish her mid term because nearly all the class only got through about half the test in one session.
     
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