My role as a teacher in higher education: feeling useless

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Drakkith
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There are generally 3 groups of students in a class, interested, semi-interested, not interested. I understand the 3rd group is in the class because it makes college/university look good by raising size of enrollment.
Nonsense. The issue is far more complex than this.

Also, we must blame the textbooks. They fill the books with hundreds to thousands pages which could be reduced to 100 to 200 pages. In so doing they completely side track from the main topic any chances they get. Sometimes it seems even the author doesn't know the true meaning of a particular equation
I've yet to have a textbook that I'd consider bad. Indeed there have been a few books that I wish had more pages. I'd be highly skeptical of any textbook I purchased that was only 100-200 pages in length.
 
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To my dismay, I have realized that students who require and appreciate my special attention are often the ones who fail to score well.
I myself am a student who recently finished high school and took physics to the highest level.
I am the student who would ask those questions no one thinks about every now and then and would usually score high in exams and tests.
You then have students who ask questions, but very basic questions.
Both type of students seem interested but the real distinction is between the ones who know what they are doing and the ones who don't.
Some kids are just smart, you as a teacher can only do so much to help the lacking ones. It is up to themselves to put in the effort at home.
 
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It is much easier to learn a subject, be it Physics or Tennis, if you are motivated to learn the subject. To the extent the author sees a variation in the amount of effort devoted to his class, he is observing a variation of motivation. Students who need direct support in order to devote time to learning are not that much interested in the topic.

So why waste your time with them? Focus on those students DO show an interest. BTW, a low test grade might provide additional motivation.
 
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Well, maybe this is a bit off topic, but thank you for caring about your students.
Some of my most profound childhood and young-adult influences were teachers who cared and therefore made a difference in my life.
 
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Nonsense. The issue is far more complex than this.



I've yet to have a textbook that I'd consider bad. Indeed there have been a few books that I wish had more pages. I'd be highly skeptical of any textbook I purchased that was only 100-200 pages in length.
One purpose of colleges/univs is to make students Jack of all Trades, Master of none. They become masters of something when they go to work. Those who are capable of becoming masters at Univs do not need too much of teacher's help.
My comment about 100-200 pages was a bit of exaggeration, but I must say number of pages should be below 500. As I said before you can not make them the Masters by shoving pages after pages of info into their brain in 4 and half months. All they need are lean mean to the point textbooks with examples that have practical uses.

Pick up any textbook, physics or engineering, take a look at all end-of-chapter problems. Most problems do not enhance students understandings of the topics, instead they make students work longer. I have seen many problems with several parts, you can solve part (a) and (b) sitting down, for part (c) you have to get up, turn on your computer, and start up Excel to plot a graph. What the author was thinking?
Added: It boils down to what teachers want to teach and what students need to learn.
 
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I'll go into some specific arguments that I disagree with.

One purpose of colleges/univs is to make students Jack of all Trades, Master of none. They become masters of something when they go to work. Those who are capable of becoming masters at Univs do not need too much of teacher's help.
This is somewhat true for an undergrad education. But even then it really depends on the subject.
A physics major should have mastered calculus as much as possible. Not just rote calculation but intuition.
This helps both solving problems but also assessing the solution.

I have seen many problems with several parts, you can solve part (a) and (b) sitting down, for part (c) you have to get up, turn on your computer, and start up Excel to plot a graph. What the author was thinking?
The last part is actually one of the more important parts. What do you think happens in the workforce?
A quick solution like one extracted from a graph is incredibly useful.
Other than that it teaches the usefulness of heuristics.

In physics one of the most useful skills is to be able to assess an answer.
This can be done by intuition, graphing, dimensional analysis or any number of ways.
The last two are heuristics.

Pick up any textbook, physics or engineering, take a look at all end-of-chapter problems. Most problems do not enhance students understandings of the topics, instead they make students work longer
It depends on which books you look at. Try Carroll's book, it has really interesting problems if you ask me.
Another example, Zwiebachs book on Strings, he actually lets the reader discover a piece of theory based on exercises (section 13 I think).
Weinbergs lectures on QM has some interesting problems as well, it is aimed for a graduate course according to the preface but I think you can fit the first 4 chapters in a semester for an advanced undergrad course (students are familiar with basic QM).

So this is highly dependable on the book one uses. This is the lecturers responsibility.

RE: the number of pages
It depends on the goal of the book. Walds book on general relativity is about 500 pages.
Which is a small number for the amount of information it contains. That's why it's never used for a first course in GR (as far as I know).
If all that information were to be collected in a book for a first course I believe you'd need at least 750 pages. (based on the few technical sections I used)
 
  • #32
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I myself am a student who recently finished high school and took physics to the highest level.
I am the student who would ask those questions no one thinks about every now and then and would usually score high in exams and tests.
You then have students who ask questions, but very basic questions.
Both type of students seem interested but the real distinction is between the ones who know what they are doing and the ones who don't.
Some kids are just smart, you as a teacher can only do so much to help the lacking ones. It is up to themselves to put in the effort at home.
Congratulations for your academic success. Intelligence alone did not take you there. There are three essential qualities: intelligence, ambition, and perseverance. I can motivate students to aim for the stars, but there is nothing I can do about the intelligence level of a student. Intelligent students are rare to come by. Therefore, it is very sad when an otherwise intelligent student fails to utilize their full potential due to lack of concentration.

It is not that these students are not trying. It may be difficult for you to imagine (and let it remain so) that there are students who have the will, but lack the willpower to concentrate on study. You see, it is much more difficult to put effort into an intellectual task than a physical task. If a person wants to give his everything to a physical task, he just needs to pick up the tool (if any) and keep going at the task until exhausted. However, that level of willpower is not always enough for intellectual tasks. There are students who pick up the book and keep staring at it until exhausted.

It is much easier to learn a subject, be it Physics or Tennis, if you are motivated to learn the subject. To the extent the author sees a variation in the amount of effort devoted to his class, he is observing a variation of motivation. Students who need direct support in order to devote time to learning are not that much interested in the topic.

So why waste your time with them? Focus on those students DO show an interest. BTW, a low test grade might provide additional motivation.
You are assuming that variation of effort = variation of motivation. Do you have anything to support your claim?
 
  • #33
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Nonsense. The issue is far more complex than this.



I've yet to have a textbook that I'd consider bad. Indeed there have been a few books that I wish had more pages. I'd be highly skeptical of any textbook I purchased that was only 100-200 pages in length.
Books are not necessarily wrong, but the teaching style is often wrong. If a student finds an authoritative book unhelpful, it usually means that the student was taught a bunch of hand rules, not the basics.
 
  • #34
Drakkith
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One purpose of colleges/univs is to make students Jack of all Trades, Master of none. They become masters of something when they go to work. Those who are capable of becoming masters at Univs do not need too much of teacher's help.
I disagree and I don't even know why you brought this up in your reply to my post. My post had nothing to do with this, nor did your post that I originally quoted.

My comment about 100-200 pages was a bit of exaggeration, but I must say number of pages should be below 500. As I said before you can not make them the Masters by shoving pages after pages of info into their brain in 4 and half months. All they need are lean mean to the point textbooks with examples that have practical uses.
I don't think page number is nearly as important as the book's content and how it is used by the instructor. I also wouldn't think of learning a subject as shoving X amount of pages into someone's brain. Each subject has a number of topics, and each topic has rules, conventions, and other things to learn. Some books may take 5 pages to cover a topic, while others may take 10. I don't agree that the book that takes 5 pages is inherently any better and I think that taking a few extra pages to cover a topic is usually a better choice.

Pick up any textbook, physics or engineering, take a look at all end-of-chapter problems. Most problems do not enhance students understandings of the topics, instead they make students work longer. I have seen many problems with several parts, you can solve part (a) and (b) sitting down, for part (c) you have to get up, turn on your computer, and start up Excel to plot a graph. What the author was thinking?
As far as I can tell, the end of chapter problems in my books typically come in a few varieties.

1.) Problems that require a single basic principle to solve.
2.) Problems that require a handful of basic principles to solve.
3.) Problems that are similar to 1 and 2 but have a twist, requiring you to do a bit more thinking to solve.
4.) Advanced problems that put multiple concepts together, have multiple steps, and/or require a lot of thinking.

Honestly I can't see why you would think that most of the problems do not enhance a students understanding. Type 1 and type 2 problems help teach you about the basic principles you'll need to know. Type 3 problems build on that by introducing a different way of approaching the type 1 and 2's, have a few more steps, or some other small complication. Type 4 problems are the "long" problems. You need to know several different concepts and work through plenty of steps to get the answer. Working through these problems may take a while, but if you can then that should mean that know your stuff. Type 4's are also found as the harder questions on exams.

I know nobody, absolutely nobody, who has ever made it through a STEM class without doing at least the first 3 types of problems, and most who haven't done the 4th type only barely made it through.

I have seen many problems with several parts, you can solve part (a) and (b) sitting down, for part (c) you have to get up, turn on your computer, and start up Excel to plot a graph. What the author was thinking?
Probably about how to teach students to make a graph. Or what data points on a graph look like. Maybe both. Either way I fail to see the problem.
 
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  • #35
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Hi all!
What You posted @sbcontt is really interesting and a bit sad. What I tell you may or may not serve you but at least is an anecdote of my own experience which at the end is all that works, for me, for you and for your students. I used to teach to highschoolers, first year physics students and people who drop education and then tried to finish their studies. What I found is shocking but true, highschoolers are very reluctant at first but if you manage to get their attention sufficiently long to forget; gaming, sex, relationships, sports and distraction that they deemed important at the time but at the end it's not, they will love science and at least will know that science is exciting, rewarding and something that is enjoyable (which for me is the best result). First year university students on the other hand are mostly a disappoint, from a class of 80 students only half of them remained at the end, out of which 30 passed and maybe like 5 or some got decent marks, and I put a lot of effort in teaching them, grading them carefully, acknowledge what they did good and marking them accordingly, even lightly (not like I got in my time, I got a really low marks just for decimal points of inaccuracy) and I realised that they simply don't care, they know that we may don't punish them as we should (I mean, not letting them pass the subject), and if they do the minimum effort they will pass, but as Feynman said it in his books, "...the experiment was worthy if at least the 5% of the class succeeded in a deeper understanding in physics". Finally mature students are the best since they have the hunger for proving themselves that they can do what they left unconcluded, they may not become researchers but knowledge probably will last more in them. So, my recommendations are these:

*) Use the Polya's 4 steps strategy of solving problems, it is a pain at first but it proves to be effective;

1-Step, Understand the problem ( like when reading in loud and several times like someone said above)

2-Step, Devising a plan (Like, how can I relate the unknowns with what is given in the data of the problem)

3-Step, Carrying the plan, carefully, checking that each part is being done properly.

4-Step, Looking back, see if what they got makes sense, there is no use of an answer which is wrong. See if I can use this result in another problem, or if I can see a solution at first glance.

And my view is, making it so clear that a 4 year kid could understand it, and remember how do you learn it, which in the end is going to be your most likely way to teach it.

Don't give up, looking how their eyes lit up when something finally clicks in their minds when they got it, is a rewarding enough to keep going!!

Cheers,

I may commit a lot of Grammar and Orthographic mistakes, kind corrections are welcome.
 
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This one may sound like a rant, so please forgive me if I am generalizing a lot.

In my student life as well as teaching career, I have noticed an alarming trend that makes me question the worthiness of my profession. The only type of students that I (as well as other teachers I have seen in action) can manage to successfully teach are the ones who show very high cognitive abilities. Even if I explain something poorly, they somehow manage to catch it. These students are the ones who usually score high on competitive tests.

To my dismay, I have realized that students who require and appreciate my special attention are often the ones who fail to score well.

I have been given different theories as explanation. One says that students who have no interest in their subject matter show this behavior. However, that does not explain why the same students appear so curious and engaged during classes. Is that an illusionary effect of being surrounded by an organized environment?
I am a certified teacher .. Math and Science. Straight up, the only thing your tests measure is the effectiveness of your teaching environment. In no way does it measure the preferred learning style of your students ... which differ considerably across your class. So stop testing !! Go to the Project Method and let your students "experience" what you are teaching. Right there is where it BEGINS !!! And a lifetime later they will have met the goals that your tests are VERY VERY WRONGLY trying to force on them. When I worked for Corning Electronics Research Lab, we invented fiber optics .. there was not a single degreed scientist in that lab .. most of us were German techs .. totally hands on and self educated every single day.
 
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This one may sound like a rant, so please forgive me if I am generalizing a lot.

In my student life as well as teaching career, I have noticed an alarming trend that makes me question the worthiness of my profession. The only type of students that I (as well as other teachers I have seen in action) can manage to successfully teach are the ones who show very high cognitive abilities. Even if I explain something poorly, they somehow manage to catch it. These students are the ones who usually score high on competitive tests.

To my dismay, I have realized that students who require and appreciate my special attention are often the ones who fail to score well.

I always assumed that self-tutoring is a crucial ability in higher education. The higher you rise on the academic ladder, the more self-reliant you have to become. However, I always assumed that this is a skill that students automatically pick up as their interest as well as knowledge grows. Unfortunately reality turned out to be quite different from that expectation. Is there any cognitive science study that goes deep into this phenomena? Anything I can do as a teacher? I personally do not know any miracle teacher who can give me advice. That is why I am sharing this here in the hope of getting some valuable input.

I do not want to rush to some conclusion like ADHD or poor IQ. Through persuasion (and some personal experience) I have found direct correlation between performance and the amount of time students study at home. Some students have reported that they find it much easier to enjoy solving problems when they are doing it under my supervision; but cannot seem to be able to attain the same interest in study when they practice alone at home. They have reported that they feel overwhelmed when they look at the problems and often procrastinate. I suspect that if somehow I can help them kindle the interest to study at home, the necessary self-tutoring skill will grow. I have noticed that it helps some of them if I mark questions for them to try at home, but that is a temporary solution. Study should not feel like a chore.

I have been given different theories as explanation. One says that students who have no interest in their subject matter show this behavior. However, that does not explain why the same students appear so curious and engaged during classes. Is that an illusionary effect of being surrounded by an organized environment?
I suggest you watch a YouTube video given by Ann McNeil at University of Michigan titled "Why I'm talking less" She is professor of chemistry and has been getting incredible results with a new teaching approach. I wish I had her for freshman chemistry back in the day.
 
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  • #38
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This one may sound like a rant, so please forgive me if I am generalizing a lot.

In my student life as well as teaching career, I have noticed an alarming trend that makes me question the worthiness of my profession. The only type of students that I (as well as other teachers I have seen in action) can manage to successfully teach are the ones who show very high cognitive abilities. Even if I explain something poorly, they somehow manage to catch it. These students are the ones who usually score high on competitive tests.

To my dismay, I have realized that students who require and appreciate my special attention are often the ones who fail to score well.

I always assumed that self-tutoring is a crucial ability in higher education. The higher you rise on the academic ladder, the more self-reliant you have to become. However, I always assumed that this is a skill that students automatically pick up as their interest as well as knowledge grows. Unfortunately reality turned out to be quite different from that expectation. Is there any cognitive science study that goes deep into this phenomena? Anything I can do as a teacher? I personally do not know any miracle teacher who can give me advice. That is why I am sharing this here in the hope of getting some valuable input.

I do not want to rush to some conclusion like ADHD or poor IQ. Through persuasion (and some personal experience) I have found direct correlation between performance and the amount of time students study at home. Some students have reported that they find it much easier to enjoy solving problems when they are doing it under my supervision; but cannot seem to be able to attain the same interest in study when they practice alone at home. They have reported that they feel overwhelmed when they look at the problems and often procrastinate. I suspect that if somehow I can help them kindle the interest to study at home, the necessary self-tutoring skill will grow. I have noticed that it helps some of them if I mark questions for them to try at home, but that is a temporary solution. Study should not feel like a chore.

I have been given different theories as explanation. One says that students who have no interest in their subject matter show this behavior. However, that does not explain why the same students appear so curious and engaged during classes. Is that an illusionary effect of being surrounded by an organized environment?
I firmly believe that all students can learn if the method of teaching and the method of the teacher is right for them. Now this is impossible in a classroom of 30 kids because one would possibly need 30 teachers. So if the curriculum could be changed to reach most of the students, the remainder could be passed to tutors, parents (hello!!) and older students and/or extra classes. Some kids can figure everything with just a text book in front of them. Some need 24 hr. teacher attention. Wouldn't it be possible to subdivide kids at the start of a school year into their learning levels and then match them with the volunteers ready to help them? Sounds too easy...
 
  • #39
Drakkith
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Wouldn't it be possible to subdivide kids at the start of a school year into their learning levels and then match them with the volunteers ready to help them? Sounds too easy...
There's several issues with this, but the main one is that there simply aren't enough skilled volunteers. Not nearly enough.
 
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There's several issues with this, but the main one is that there simply aren't enough skilled volunteers. Not nearly enough.
You are right that it is not possible; however, as you say, it is probable. It would take a lot of work by an institution like the PTA or whatever they're called now (as long as it included parents and teachers working together and not apart). I'd be happy if the PTA got as involved in teaching as they do in fund-raising, for example. And how about PTA Alumni......?
 
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When I worked for Corning Electronics Research Lab, we invented fiber optics .. there was not a single degreed scientist in that lab ..
So Maurer, Keck, and Schultz pretty much sulked in their offices while you people did the actual work? Sigh. I wonder how common this occurrence is in modern R&D industry. Congratulations for the success of your team. Thanks to your work, fiber optic became a thing long before the concept of world wide web was born. I doubt copper could handle the load of transatlantic mass communication (you would be more wise regarding these matters).

Straight up, the only thing your tests measure is the effectiveness of your teaching environment.
Those are not my exams the students are failing. They are failing competitive exams.

In no way does it measure the preferred learning style of your students ... which differ considerably across your class. So stop testing !!
Wait... are you talking about this:
I don't do that ....yet. This was a suggestion from people in this forum. I don't know how that quiz works and kinesthetic learning is still a big question mark.

.. most of us were German techs .. totally hands on and self educated every single day.
I don't understand what you mean by "techs". I don't understand the exact nature of your work either (not my field). Did you take Kao's theory for granted or did you verify it beforehand? Were there any doubts about the method? Did you use trial-and-error or did you apply theories of quantum chemistry to predict the resultant attenuation? What was the challenge: the technical aspect of doping or finding the proper element?

Go to the Project Method and let your students "experience" what you are teaching. Right there is where it BEGINS !!!
This is very true. There are people who can't learn the formal way. They require a more hands-on approach. However, we can't leave theory behind. We move forward by picking up where our predecessors left off. To do that, we need exhaustive knowledge of everything that has been done before. Even the greatest minds like Sir Newton and Albert Einstein did not start from zero.

It is very difficult to come up with projects that will require understanding (not just application) of a broad range of theories (due to shortage of time). I learned how to teach from my own teachers as they taught me. I have been taught technology through projects (and I am somewhat efficient at that), but I have never been taught theoretical physics/math through projects.
 
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In my student life as well as teaching career, I have noticed an alarming trend that makes me question the worthiness of my profession. The only type of students that I (as well as other teachers I have seen in action) can manage to successfully teach are the ones who show very high cognitive abilities. Even if I explain something poorly, they somehow manage to catch it. These students are the ones who usually score high on competitive tests. To my dismay, I have realized that students who require and appreciate my special attention are often the ones who fail to score well. I have noticed that it helps some of them if I mark questions for them to try at home, but that is a temporary solution. Study should not feel like a chore. One says that students who have no interest in their subject matter show this behavior. However, that does not explain why the same students appear so curious and engaged during classes. Is that an illusionary effect of being surrounded by an organized environment?
As a former student who exhibited the behavior your cite and as a high school teacher who struggles with students like my former self, it is an illusory effect. Really I think what you are observing is that education for the average student is wasted on the young. It is not that the students have no interest in the subject matter, it is that the average American student does not have the academic maturity or emotional maturity to prioritize the struggle that is necessary to really learn the material over their social lives. Let's not kid ourselves, studying feels like a chore to most kids because relative to socializing studying actually is a chore. The learning curve with problem solving is absolutely brutal and our high schools have all but abandoned teaching and assessing the art of problem solving, I am among the few teachers who steadfastly hold onto it. There is nothing inherently pleasing in the process of problem solving, the fulfillment comes with completion. Over time we begin to realize that it was the process that mattered not the results, but that is not what it feels like when you are waist deep in the mud, especially if you are sacrificing partying for it.

I just do not see a way around this frustration until we radically restructure our education system. So long as children get dragged onto this k-12 conveyor belt which takes them from one school to the next, where they are not academically challenged and where socializing and athletics takes precedence over academics then you will likely continue seeing this phenomena at the college level.
 
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  • #43
When I originally responded I was under the impression that you taught in the US. So I don't know how much of what I wrote corresponds to students outside the US. Additionally I forgot to add one other important aspect to the cause. Namely that the type of students that gravitate toward mathematics and physics are not the ones who are actually most suited to succeed in the field. In the mind of almost all 17-20 year old students, their view of mathematics is manipulating ready made functions. They are what I call Formula Monkeys. This is generally what they are taught in high school classrooms for a myriad of reasons and math teachers that go against this tide are harshly rebuked. Anyhow, this creates many problems at the undergrad level, but perhaps the worst problem is that it filters out our most able math and physics students. The Formula Monkey approach to mathematics discourages the critical thinkers because they reject this type of rote memorization and regurgitation of facts, usually unconsciously. As a result they think of themselves as not particularly good at what they think of as mathematics and when they leave high school they leave mathematics and applied mathematics fields behind as well. What you are left with are either the students who are talented and drawn to the field despite their mathematics mis-education or students who are gifted at rote memorization and regurgitation of facts and have inflated sense of self as a result of this, I was a member of both groups but mostly the latter group.

To give you an idea of how many talented students there are that are filtered out consider that this year I have 5 students who are going on to major in physics and/or mathematics who otherwise would not have had they not taken my class, out of 80 students in their graduating class which took my class. That number is probably on par with the percentage of students who leave high school and go into these fields, meaning that the number of students that do not go into these fields but are actually well suited is easily on the same order of poorly suited students that do.

I will preface my advice by telling you that it is not a cure and some of it applies more to first year physics students rather than later physics majors. But I believe it can help.
  1. Give your students a complete survey at the beginning and the end of the course, and I don't mean the survey you have to give, but rather one that you construct. I strongly recommend using Google Forms for the survey. Email me if you want to see an example of a survey that I give. The purpose of the survey is to understand the psychological profile of your students when it comes to studying, what they believe constitutes mathematical problem solving, what they believe physics should be like. This will help you when you address them about the realities of the field of study.
  2. Be upfront with your students from day 1. Explain to them what is actually required to succeed in Physics and that many people go into this major/class thinking that they are hot stuff. Many of these students have dramatically inflated sense of self, they think they are geniuses when they are actually average at best. One of the ways that I do this is by incorporating the discoveries of the Greeks into my first year physics course. For instance, when I introduce Newton's theory of Universal Gravitation, I start off with the proof and discovery of the radius of the Earth by Eratosthenes and the proof and discovery of the distance from the Earth to the Moon by Hipparchus. These proof's lead to Newton's determination that Gravitation is an inverse square law. What this does is it humbles and it gives them a renewed perspective of what mathematics actually is and how the process of discovery actually happens.
  3. Spend time teaching students the art of problem solving. That means you will have to reduce content or increase credit hours. The way I do this is by solving hard beautiful problems usually from the next level course that involve many concepts. Students need to learn techniques, we know the techniques, it is not clear how we learned them ourselves, but even if we taught ourselves out of necessity it does not mean that we can not teach them. This is one area where my students are most grateful.
  4. Use clickers with concept questions to flesh out their gaps in knowledge.
  5. Derive or prove almost everything and do it without using the fundamental theorem of calculus or derivative and integral formulas. Students are rapidly pushed into calculus with little to no appreciation of algebra, trigonometry or analytic geometry. The fundamental theorem and the formulas for derivatives and integrals are mechanisms for students to continue the behavior of regurgitating memorized facts. This is going to take time on your part, because it will force you to derive ways to solve problems that you could easily do with the fundamental theorem at your disposal, like linear drag problems for instance. But if you want students to really learn how to problem solve it helps to restrict their toolset and force them to learn the myriad of ways to really use a flat screwdriver. There is no conceivable way for students to appreciate the work of Newton if they have no idea about the contributions of Archimedes. This really gives meaning to Newton's statement "if i saw further it was by standing on the shoulders of giants".
I hope this helps.
 
  • #44
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Well, I could neither edit nor delete that incomplete post. So I reported it.

Allow me to start anew. I will do away with lists and categorizations this time.

.........Students need to learn techniques, we know the techniques, it is not clear how we learned them ourselves, but even if we taught ourselves out of necessity it does not mean that we can not teach them. This is one area where my students are most grateful.....
I wish I had a teacher like you. I know how to solve specific types of problems, but I don't know how to approach an unknown problem. This is an area where I need help myself before I can help my students.

You may be wondering how I am even a teacher without this knowledge, right? Thing is (as I already mentioned in my first post), I don't have to put any effort into teaching a student if they are good, and I can't help them if the student is average or bad. Experience saves me from ever facing a totally unknown problem during the course of teaching. Teaching is a profession that Indians choose when they can't secure a job at a foreign company. There are some excellent teachers (knowledge-wise) around, but there is no general standard.

I remember one encounter with a specific math teacher who would only show me one or two examples from a chapter (high school math) and expect me to solve all the problems from the exercises. Some chapters would be easy for me, some chapters would prove so hard that he would end up having to explain nearly all the solutions. I got pretty annoyed by his behavior and dismissed him, but during his dismissal he accused me of expecting him to do all the hard work for me. I did not understand his accusation at that time because I was never interested in memorizing solutions, so I took it as an ignorant remark. But now I know that explaining all the answers is no better than instructing the student to memorize every solution.

I know that most of my students suck at facing new problem types, and I don't instruct them to memorize practiced solutions either. Needless to say, the exam goes very predictably. They can't do half of the known problems because they did not revise, and they can't crack the unknown problems because... they can't (and there is negative marking). I expect students to become naturally good at problem solving after they solve a few of same type. I suppose this is nothing less than expecting a miracle.

There is nothing inherently pleasing in the process of problem solving, the fulfillment comes with completion. Over time we begin to realize that it was the process that mattered not the results, but that is not what it feels like when you are waist deep in the mud, especially if you are sacrificing partying for it.
No wonder the average students do not have any motivation to practice. Observing their classroom performances I can tell that most of them have rarely (if ever) tasted the satisfaction of completion. They can practice what I taught, but there is little satisfaction in that. They can choose to get stuck on new problems, but where is the fun in that either?

[ it is not that they can't solve anything on their own. however, I assume that the ratio of success:failure has to be high enough in order for it to be motivating (and at least 3:2 for any chance in competitive exams). Otherwise it might discourage instead]
 
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