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My perspectives on learning

  1. Oct 25, 2007 #1
    no matter how hard you study for a subject, whether it be analysis , calculus abstract algebra , or metaphysics , or whatever, you will never completely understand the subject in any environment of 30 or so people unless you sit down with a person who has knowledge of the subject you are studying and teaches you for numerous hours without having 3o or so other students to teach?

    Thats one element of learning in college I do not like. memorization is replaced with actual learning. If students actually learned the material for the test, they would not have to look it up; Even Einstein said that 'his education got in the way of learning. Unless you have a diagnosed learning disability, You can't learn at your own pace because you are expected to finish a test within a certain time frame. Even though you mighty understood the material before you taken the test based on the material, You still received the the failing grade for the course,; they do not care what you learned they only care if you memorized within a certain time frame.

    Its sort of ironic how we students are expected to learn physics within an hour for an exam, yet it took years for scientists to formulate the 2nd law of thermodynamics and general relativity and so many other physical laws. Can you imagine what Special relativity would look like if he worked for a company and the company asked him to formulated a modified version of Newton's Law of gravitation within a year.There would probably be numerous errors in his theory.

    I don't like the current pedadogy methods common in many universities and colleges because it replaces learning with memorization.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 25, 2007 #2


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    You can sit down with a book and teach yourself for numerous hours. The lecture is supposed to just give you another explanation or overview ( assuming the lecture doesn't just read the book) it isn't a replacement for looking at the material yourself.

    Exams are more questionable. They are there to:
    1, Force you to study - otherwise why would you bother?
    2, Filter out people that actually know the stuff - useful if you are going into industry.
    You can argue wether continual assesment of problem classes or viva exams are fairer than exam papers.
  4. Oct 25, 2007 #3
    College is kind of a swift kick in the rear preparing you for a life in which you will have only yourself to turn too , learn from and pretty much show that you can do it on your own. You will have some of the best and some of the worse maestro/a's in college. It can be tuff but you will feel great after the work is done.
  5. Oct 25, 2007 #4


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    Generally, if you have actual understanding of the material, you will pass your exams, and within the time allotted. If you have only attempted to memorize, you will struggle to pass regardless of how much time you are given. Exams are usually written to require far less time than the allotted time to complete them. For example, if I'm going to give an hour long exam, I make sure that I could complete it in about 10 min, so a student who really knows their stuff can complete it in about a half hour, and a student who knows their stuff, but needs more time to think about it can still complete it within the hour given. The student who claims they need extra time usually doesn't know the material sufficiently well, and all the time in the world will not help.

    You shouldn't be learning while taking the exam anyway. The learning should occur well before the exam. The exam is a test of how much you have already learned.

    And, likewise, you can learn the material presented at the pace it is presented because you are NOT going back and starting from scratch to discover these laws and concepts for the first time, you just need to learn the conclusion from those years of work.

    Now, I'm going to nitpick a bit, because I hope it will help you in the long run, though it will sound like criticism now. The way your thoughts were presented in the OP are very disorganized. You leap from one idea to the next without any sense of how you got from A to J, and your statements sometimes sound even contradictory. It sort of rambles all over the place and it took some effort to figure out what your point even was (I nearly came away with an opposite idea of what you meant to say). I'm pointing this out because it may be indicative of why you're struggling in your exams as well. If your thought processes are disorganized, and you haven't really taken time to consider all the intermediate steps in the flow of logic from step A to step J in your coursework, you may be missing the essential relationships between key concepts, or perhaps even steps along the path of solving problems on the exams. You may need to take a different approach to tackling your studies to perform better.
  6. Oct 25, 2007 #5
    How do I ramble on? I make myself very clear: taking the exam of the material does not equate with actually learning. Point out the alleged contradictory statements I made In my original post.

    Explain to me why I get decent grades on my homework, and I don't even formed study groups with any of my classmates, but failed miserably on my tests for the same material.I understand the key concepts presented in the class crystal clear. Occasionally I even skipped lecture because I already understand the material. Another assumptions allegedly made by many professors is that students should finished to test on time. IF students process and absorbed the material presented at different rates, then why in the world should professors make the assumption that students will complete the exam at the same rate?
  7. Oct 25, 2007 #6
    Understanding and implementing things are two separate things, but often get confused as being one.

    For instance, you can understand that one way of attaching a nail to a wall is by hitting it with a hammer. But now, try to implement this. Try hitting the nail without hitting your own hand? For some it may be difficult, for experienced construction workers it's a piece of cake.

    It is the same with everything else. Einstein understood general relativity very well, but he did have help I believe from Hilbert implementing it mathematically.

    You can also implement something without having an understanding, or an open picture about what's really going on. You just do it by following a sequence of steps like a robot.

    I would say tests in many undergraduate math and physics courses simply measure your ability to implement your knowledge, and less emphasize on your understanding. Of course, without understanding you wouldn't be able to do the harder problems. In humanities, it's 95% memory and recall.

    my 2 cents.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2007
  8. Oct 25, 2007 #7


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    Sure. Again, reminding you that I'm only doing this with the goal of being helpful, not to be argumentative or accusatory (I really don't want you to misunderstand my intent and take this badly).

    Here, you state that memorization is replaced with actual learning. That puzzled me greatly at first, because I didn't understand why you'd have an issue with such a concept. Also, your first paragraph starts as a statement, and ends as a question.

    This seems to follow from your statement that actual learning is now required. But, where are you going with this point? Indeed, if you know the material, you don't have to look it up; that should help with test taking when you cannot look up material.

    In what way? How does that quote follow from all your previous statements? Everything until this point is indicating the goal of higher education is learning, now you're saying education gets in the way of learning, but this just arises out of nowhere.

    Three entirely unrelated points in a single sentence, none of which flows together into a coherent thought. Breaking it into parts: "Unless you have a diagnosed learning disability, you can't learn at your own pace..." Don't you think it's harder for someone with a learning disability to learn at their own pace? They're the ones who require more time to complete tasks. And why can't others learn at their own pace?

    Discarding the first clause about learning disabilities, and just taking the remainder: "You can't learn at your own pace because you are expected to finish a test within a certain time frame." What does a timed test have to do with the pace of learning material? Yes, you need to finish your test within the allotted time, but that's at the end of the learning process.

    Aside from the obvious grammatical issues here, the conclusion you reach does not follow from the premise at the beginning of your sentence, or the beginning of your entire post above. You started off originally saying you actually have to learn, not just memorize, but now you're saying they expect you to only memorize, not learn. This is the contradictory statement. Also, if you are failing the test, more likely you did not know the material going into the test. If you had learned it well, you would not have needed to memorize it, because you could figure it out without memorization.

    Again, this is rather jumping all over the place. You realize you need to study outside of lecture time, right? You're not ever asked to learn everything in just an hour for an exam. I've never heard of a course where you get a lecture and are told, "Now, this will be on the exam we will be having in an hour."

    Again, you've gone off on a tangent not directly pertinent to your argument. Imagining whether someone could come up with one of the major theories in physics under a deadline is entirely different from learning what the theory states after it has been developed, even more different than learning the small portion of it you'll be taught in your undergraduate classes, and not pertinent to your concerns about learning at your own pace. About the only relevant point is that if you're going to work for a company, you will also be under pressure of deadlines. Work does need to be completed in a certain amount of time, so if you have no learned something sufficiently well to be productive in that time, you're going to have a hard time out in the working world.

    And how many universities and colleges have you attended? You started out complaining about a single class, and now you've broadly lept to the assumption that it is common to emphasize memorization over learning.

    Now, back to your second post...
  9. Oct 25, 2007 #8
    I see what you are saying but students still process information , at different rates and their is no way for all students to complete a test on the expected time. I like your analogy about the robot memorizing a sequence of steps. One can derived an analogy between the robot spewing out algorithms for a particular program and a student spewing out information who has know true understanding of the material he received a good grade on. IF he truly understands the material, the material I think would stay instilled in their mind way after they've taken the test on the material in a way that they would recall the material instantly.
  10. Oct 25, 2007 #9
  11. Oct 25, 2007 #10


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    Well, sure, there are students who do that, and it does fade easily. They are not particularly good students, and often don't manage to maintain that 3.0 GPA anyway if that is their approach to it. They have the wrong attitude going in, so don't compare yourself to them.

    If you're struggling on the tests, short of having a test anxiety issue, you are by definition, struggling in the class. But, since you have performed satisfactorily in other courses, perhaps it is simply that you need to take a different approach to learning physics, or perhaps it is the first course that is truly challenging you, so you need to hone your study skills for that course.

    If you are only studying the material the day before your exam, that is the problem. Cramming doesn't work. What is your approach to studying? Do you only study the day before? Do you have anyone quiz you on problems, definitions, and concepts? Do you do all the problem sets for a chapter, including those not assigned for homework? Can you derive all the equations you're using?

    And, again, I've told you that exams are written with that expectation. Unless you experience test anxiety where you just go blank at the start of an exam and need the time to regain your composure, you should have more than enough time to complete an exam in the given time.

    Actually, I don't think homeschooled students are more knowledgeable at all. Usually, I think they are better at rote memorization, or one specific subject their parents spoon-fed to them, but rarely do I find them to be knowledgeable overall. If you've been spoon-fed all your life, you're not ready to handle solving your own problems in a real world setting. The college classroom is preparing you to think on your own for the real world. If you need someone to sit down and walk you through everything, then you really need to work on your independent study skills.

    Do you want to know who my best students are time and again? They're the ones who join study groups and get feedback on their knowledge. Try it for yourself and you'll see how much better you learn in a group than on your own. Otherwise, hire a tutor, but don't expect the real world to provide tutors every time you need to solve a problem.
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