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Is it odd to get help with physics homework from your proffessor

  1. Mar 14, 2008 #1
    I must admit, I do not work in student groups on homework that often (or never) and when I seek assistance on homework , it is usually from my professor.

    I usually try to work on problems independently as much as possible , but when I get stump and try to think about the problem and then arrive at no solution, I go ask my professor for help.

    Should I do that or try to do the problems own as much as possible , even I do not arrive at a concrete solution. I know physicists in the real world are stump with problems all the time that they are not able to solve and for many of those physicists , it may take them years to arrive at a solution; thats why I ask.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2008 #2
    I'd say it's alright, as long as you actually learn something by asking him.
  4. Mar 14, 2008 #3
    Same, I like to work on my own.
  5. Mar 14, 2008 #4


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    I always ask the professor.
  6. Mar 14, 2008 #5
    I always have to work that way, because everyone else waits till the night before the assignment is due and ends up staying up all night and turning in a halfassed incomplete homework.
  7. Mar 14, 2008 #6
    I usually go into the Open Lab (room where TA has his office hours, and so most people work there) if I'm stuck on a question and work on it with others. I find this to be more fun, because professors usually give you very direct hints. But other than the loss of the "fun" factor, I don't think that there is anything bad about it. Usually it is just a small point you are missing anyways.
  8. Mar 14, 2008 #7


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    Do you really have to seek your professor's help? I tend to look for my tutorial class's tutor, who may be either a graduate student or another professor.
  9. Mar 14, 2008 #8
    The reason Professor's created office hours was for this reason. They know that even the brightest student will get stumped from time to time. But never forget this, the brightest students are probably the students that go the most to the Professors office hours.

    The reason is simply that they are smart enough to know that there are millions more questions out there that they can practice on and apply the skills they learned from their professor.
  10. Mar 14, 2008 #9


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    I am a prof and of course I don't mind at all students asking questions.

    What is annoying is when students come to ask 10 questions on the day the assignment is due or when they spend 45 minutes in my office asking help on every little step of an assignment. What matters i sthat you make some effort to try a problem and think about it before asking a question to the prof. I love helping studenst when it's clear they have tried and have a clear question when they come see me. But I have had students coming to ask help on problem X of the assignment and when I ask them to describe the problem, they don't even remember!

    So please ask question to your prof. Simply spend a bit of time trying to figure it out by yourself first. It's always clear to the prof if you have made some effort before asking. But if you get stuck don't be shy!
  11. Mar 14, 2008 #10
    Assignment and test difficulty is usually based on the assumption that you will exploit the hell out of office hours and study groups. If you don't or can't, you're pretty much screwed. :eek:

    But do it wisely...showing up with no idea where you need help is just a waste of everyone's time.
  12. Mar 14, 2008 #11
    I would say definitely go ahead and ask your professor when you need to. But if the reason you don't work in study groups is because you regard it as some kind of cheating (I don't know if you do, it's just your comment about being as independent as possible) I would say that you shouldn't worry about that, study groups are a good resource and take advantage of them all you want as long as your objective is to learn and understand the material. (Or if you prefer working alone that's just fine too.)
  13. Mar 14, 2008 #12
    kdv has a very good point that I forgot to mention. The best way to use Office hours to get help on problem sets is this way:

    First try to do some of the easier problems, preferably in the morning and try to get at least one of the tougher ones also. If you can't do it then go through out the day thinking of how to answer it. If you have tried all possible methods, and think you have found one but not sure how to finish then this is the time to go to the Professor and explain the situation. By providing information on what you tried and how, and ask for any small guidance.

    Hope this helps guys.
  14. Mar 14, 2008 #13
    It sounds like you went to a large school with lots of cannon fodder teaching aides and grad students. Where I went there wasn't any of that, there was just the professor.
  15. Mar 14, 2008 #14
    Same. I usually try to ask the TA's first, but I never know where their offices are, but I know where my professors' offices are, so I just go straight to there.

    They never mind and are happy to see someone trying to get help instead of just not doing the assignment or something.

    Moreover, that's what they have office hours for in the first place.
  16. Mar 15, 2008 #15


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    I don't know which year of your college education you are in, but I've noticed that for the first 2 years at least for my engineering courses, tutorial classes are conducted either by other professors or graduate students, not the lecturer themselves. Tutorials for 3rd and final year courses seem to be done in the same manner as lectures, in the lecture hall by the lecturer.
  17. Mar 15, 2008 #16
    I graduated seven years ago. (From college.)
  18. Mar 15, 2008 #17


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    No, there's nothing wrong with seeking help from your professor, so long as you play by the rules and either visit during his office hours, or arrange an appointment first. The same applies for other teachers (ie. grad students, other professors, whether you deem them "cannon fodder" or not); you shouldn't turn up to these peoples' offices outside office hours.
  19. Mar 15, 2008 #18
    That is usually because the class sizes shrink by the third and fourth years to around 30-25 students, well at least at my school. The funny thing is though that one of my courses in first year actually had the tutorials run by the professor - no idea why.
  20. Mar 16, 2008 #19
    Absolutely not. If you're good enough to do physics, you don't need anyone else's help.

    That is the attitude that bit me in the ass as an undergrad, and even for a while as a grad student. It is the wrong attitude to have. If you need some help, ask. If the professor is a decent professor, s/he will be happy to help.
  21. Mar 16, 2008 #20
    Their office hours are usually when I have class. I show up whenever I can, ask "Is this a good time?" and then if they turn me down, I just leave, if not, I get some help.

    One hour per week of office hours can't accommodate everybody and if I need help with an assignment, I don't usually know about it a few days ahead of time to schedule an appointment.
  22. Mar 16, 2008 #21
    I usually try and delay it as much as possible. Not the home work the going to the professor...Which ends in one of 2 ways
    1. I get the solution and feel great for a while!
    2. I get yelled at for not finishing my work!!

    Admittedly option 2 isnt quite as good as option 1...
  23. Mar 16, 2008 #22
    Alot of this has to do with whether you're going to a school that hires professors because of their teaching ability or because of their research credentials (or because they're buddies with someone on the board of trustees, as is the case not infrequently, and I think was probably the case where I went - private college, large endowment, ivy growing on the buildings but just an Ivy league wannabe, etc.)

    The place I went had a fair number of professors who had also also taught high school. It was really amazing how drastically different they were, it actually got to the point where I called it correctly 100% of the time, I think. (It undoubtedly helped that I was getting a minor in high school education.) You can get by not knowing how to teach as a college professor but not as a high school teacher.
  24. Mar 16, 2008 #23


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    It's best if you can schedule an appointment. Even if you ask if it's a good time, and they send you away, that interruption may really disrupt them from doing whatever they're trying to accomplish (especially if you're not the only one doing it). It might be best to tell your professor that you have another class during their office hours, and ask if there's an alternative day/time that is best for him/her to meet with you so you don't interrupt them.

    Office hours are definitely there for the students to use. Outside of office hours, schedule appointments. Even if you just send an email in the morning asking for a time later that afternoon that's good, it can be better than just popping in unannounced. As long as you follow those rules of etiquette, yes, ask your professor your questions.

    And, as others pointed out, if you have any TAs or other instructors for the course aside from your professor, and they have office hours better suited to your schedule, use them before scheduling appointments outside office hours...that's what they're there for. If they can't help you, then you can contact the professor to schedule appointments outside office hours. Back when I was a TA, we all held our office hours in the same place so you didn't have to find our offices, and students were welcome to meet with any of us, not just the one assigned to their section, so if you didn't particularly like your own TA's teaching style, or couldn't make it to their office hours, you could still find someone to help you. And, since most TAs sat around bored out of their minds trapped in an office that wasn't their own, they were most eager to help any student who wandered in (though, I usually had a line waiting for me since I had office hours over the lunch hour when a lot of students could make it, but it was sure better than twiddling my thumbs for an hour).
  25. Mar 25, 2008 #24
    Are most of you able to solve the physics problems by yourselves without any outside assistance?
  26. Mar 25, 2008 #25
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