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What information do you want covered in lectures?

  1. Only what is going to be on tests, otherwise use office hours

    3 vote(s)
  2. Any question relevant to the current section being discussed

    16 vote(s)
  3. If you have questions, figure them out for yourself

    1 vote(s)
  4. Don't care

    0 vote(s)
  1. Dec 11, 2011 #1


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    A classmate approached me last week (after class) and asked why I ask about things that probably aren't going to be on the exam. I told him that it helps me understand things on a deeper level. He then said, "Do your understanding on your own, because it makes things confusing for the rest of the class."

    Seriously? I asked "why are we allowed to do that?" It took about 3 minutes out of the lecture. I told him he can feel free to tune out next time; he doesn't have to listen to something he doesn't think will be useful. It then occurred to me that my position might be a bit selfish. Am I being inconsiderate? Should I be asking the "why" questions during office hours? What are your thoughts?

    I actually believe there's some benefit to working through something by myself and do it as often as I can, but as long as I'm not monopolizing the lecture, then a question here and there shouldn't be a problem.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2011 #2
    I don't see the issue with asking a question during lecture hours.. Especially if it helps you understand the material better. In fact, I am sure that if it helped you, it also helped other people too. It may not have helped this particular person, hence the fact they approached you, but wahwah for them.
  4. Dec 11, 2011 #3

    I like Serena

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    Homework Helper

    I think it's mostly a matter of knowing when to stop.

    In a lecture I enjoy people asking sharp questions with short enlightening answers, whether they are relevant to the tests or not.
    I believe such interactivity can greatly improve a lecture that might otherwise be boring.

    I do not enjoy it when a sizable chunk of a lecture is spent in a non-productive manner, certainly not when it won't be in a test anyway.
    It makes a lecture boring.

    I'm afraid I don't know how to vote, since my point of view is not covered in your choices.
    Mostly I want a lecture to be enjoyable and productive, with most of the material relevant to the tests.
  5. Dec 11, 2011 #4


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    Gold Member

    I agree. If you have done your work and still have a question about some aspect of the course, chances are some other student(s) could benefit from the clarification.
  6. Dec 11, 2011 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Dosis facit venenum.

    Three minutes is 6% of a 50 minute class. Is it OK for a student to ask for 6% of one lecture to be spent on material that is perhaps enriching but not central? Of course. Is it OK for one student to ask for 6% of every lecture to be spent on such material? That's a bit dicier. I can certainly sympathize with a student that feels that only 94% of the time is spent on what is central to the class.

    Somewhere in between is a line.
  7. Dec 11, 2011 #6


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    If I think the question I'm about to ask is going to take more than 1 minute to answer, I keep it for the end of the class. The professors are almost always available for at least a few minutes after the class ends.
    If it's a yes/no question type, I ask it without hesitation. Our lecture classes last 2 hours though; they're always followed by another 2 hours class, but these class are for solving problems with assistants. We've usually around 2 assistants for 20 students so after a semester we all know well each other. And this might be the time to ask questions but in general the assistants prefer us to ask question about the problems rather than the lecture we just had.
    So for the course, I prefer to learn what will be on the tests. After the courses I prefer to understand better what's going on and ask many questions that goes well outside the realm of what will be tested.
  8. Dec 11, 2011 #7
    I try to ask questions that ARE relevant and I just get reprimanded and given smart *** answers from my instructor
  9. Dec 11, 2011 #8
    Why doesn't the other student learn the basic material outside of class? Why should the lecture be wasted on something he could easily learned from the text (if that's the case)?
  10. Dec 11, 2011 #9
    I don't think insightful things need to be explored in depth in an introductory course. If this is upper division, ask all the wacky things you want. Leave the rest alone in the intro course
  11. Dec 11, 2011 #10


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    These are two things of which I try to be conscious, and they're what caused me to question whether I'm asking questions too often. I do have a question just about every lecture, but not every question deals with "optional" concepts. Most of the time I'm just asking for clarification of what's written on the board, which only takes a few seconds.

    An additional note: This is a Calculus III course, and most of the students in my class are engineering majors. I don't expect them to find the theoretical aspects of what we're covering as interesting as I do, but I also want to get as much out of this course as I can before I start taking analysis courses. I can be sensitive to those who aren't interested in the same things as me.
  12. Dec 11, 2011 #11
    You are paying just as much as they are, but if you can, try and get your questions answered on your own time (office hours). Write down questions if you wont remember them. I know that it sucks leaving a class feeling clueless
  13. Dec 11, 2011 #12
    That line is for the professor to judge, not the student. A student should ask all the intelligent, on-topic, concise questions that occur to them.
  14. Dec 11, 2011 #13
    I think its fine to ask questions, but there is a limit I would say. What I personally don't like, and had to experience this semester, are students who hog the class time every meeting with selfish questions. This one kid this semester would ask just series of endless questions diving deeper and deeper into the subject until you could tell the professor either didn't know, or got frustrated trying to explain something very difficult to a sophomore. Its absolutely fine and dandy to ask questions pertinent to the material, but if it goes over a minute or so of you talking exclusively to the professor, then its time to end it and wait for office hours IMO.

    Also, only a jerk would come up and say what he said in that way.
  15. Dec 11, 2011 #14


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    That's what I think, too. An experienced professor should know when to draw the line. It's perfectly acceptable for a prof to say, 'That's a bit outside of the scope of this class, but I'd love to talk with you about it during my office hours.'

    I would put the responsibility for that excessive diversion on the professor.

    Yes, I agree.
  16. Dec 11, 2011 #15
    The first two options look similar:

    Only what is going to be on tests
    Any question relevant to the current section being discussed

    No one ever knows what will be on the test and a good test usually tries to cover all subjects discussed in the lectures.

    It's kind of annoying when someone tries to use the lecture time on things that have nothing to do with the central content. Mostly people will be annoyed if you ask too many questions and will either confront you or talk about it among themselves. I think rule of the thumb is ask a question that will be of interest to everyone in the class not just yourself. Normally if someone asks a important question, you will notice one or two other students will jump in the discussion.

    There will be always people in the back who wouldn't care about anything though and get annoyed by any kind of lecture discussion.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2011
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