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What to do if your professor is not much ''intelligent''?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Our Physics I midterm exam papers were returned to us this afternoon. One question had been answered wrong by our prof, unfortunately.

It was a simple vector question where the gravity is referenced as positive and thus downward acceleration should be positive as well, however she insisted that it is negative because it is going ''down''.

We tried many times to explain how she got it wrong but she just won't see it, I can tell that she was very much annoyed. Sadly, that question was worth 10/70 of the test.

I learned that our professor has only a BS in Chemical Engineering, and she's teaching general physics.

Should I just let it pass?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
ZapperZ
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Ask another physics instructor to verify what is correct.

Zz.
 
  • #3
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I would go to another physics professor, confirm the problem, and ask without being annoying if the prof. can get it straight with yours.

Edit: Didn't see ZapperZ's post, oh well.
 
  • #4
eri
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Yes, talk to another professor. Then see if you can figure out why your school is letting someone without even a masters teach a college class. Is she a graduate student? Or are they not accredited? Most schools won't even consider you without a masters for a faculty position.
 
  • #5
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Personally, let it go..
Do not try to worsen the problem by challenging her with other professor backing you up
 
  • #6
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Do the problem again on a piece of paper and include all of the assumptions and reasoning you made and analyze their correctness.Also read the question again and see if you did what the problem really asked you to. When you are finished you should realize were you got the problem wrong(You getting it wrong is the most probable thing) or be completely sure that you got it right.If you still think your solution is valid go to your prof office hour with the paper and explain it to her.I would not go to another prof to complain since I think is bad form.
 
  • #7
ZapperZ
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But it is also a matter of learning. The OP needs to know if he/she did it correctly or not, and if the instructor is wrong, she needs to make sure she doesn't penalize other students in the future by perpetuating her error.

Zz.
 
  • #8
mathwonk
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I agree to ask another professor. This has happened to me, in that a student asked me about a mistake made by a well qualified very smart full professor. I diplomatically presented it to him, and we fixed it, no problem for the student. Of course I too have made many mistakes, and am always glad to have them pointed out. I even tell students when handing out tests to be sure to check for any errors I may have made and feel free to bring them to me. The only time I have suffered such an injustice myself was when professor declined to review homework graded by his assistant, and the assistant was not very sophisticated. I had no other recourse there. In that case however the student made no error, he was just asking for more detail than I thought the trivial problem called for. Another time I was dinged for just writing down an easy answer I did in my head, when unknown to me the book had answers in the back. The grader accused me, plausibly enough I suppose from his jaded viewpoint, of copying from the back. The fact that I still remember and resent these things almost 50 years later argues to me that you should not let it slide.
 
  • #9
Andy Resnick
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Our Physics I midterm exam papers were returned to us this afternoon. One question had been answered wrong by our prof, unfortunately.
<snip>

Should I just let it pass?
If the error is in fact due to the professor (something you need to verify first), then the group of you should approach the Department Chair. The Chair has an interest in making sure faculty are qualified to be teaching the class.
 
  • #10
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Just curious, what is the whole question?
 
  • #11
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I would just let it go. I've had enough professors who were wrong and wouldn't admit it. I even had one professor who insisted that x+y=1 described an ellipse, and who didn't believe that there should be squares somewhere...

If the professor is nice and approachable, then you could perhaps talk to her in her office hours. Or maybe you could ask for a second opinion. However, you mentioned that your professor was already annoyed. Then I really would just let it go, you really don't want to have a professor as an "enemy"...

If you do take action (by asking another professor, or talking to the department chair), make sure you take action as a group. If you do such things individually, then bad things might happen...
 
  • #12
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Also, as Ashuron suggested, post the entire question here. Maybe you did make a mistake somewhere. If you let the physicist here take a look at the problem, then maybe we'll find where you went wrong. Or we can confirm that you're 100% correct...
 
  • #13
Doc Al
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It was a simple vector question where the gravity is referenced as positive and thus downward acceleration should be positive as well, however she insisted that it is negative because it is going ''down''.
As others have suggested, please post the problem word for word as it was given to you. (Your statement that gravity was referenced as positive, seems a bit odd.)
 
  • #14
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Personally, let it go..
Do not try to worsen the problem by challenging her with other professor backing you up
In life you have to learn to stand up for yourself. If college is supposed to prepare you for the outside world then he should learn to speak up.

I would not go to another prof to complain since I think is bad form.
It's not complaining. If he goes to his professor then his professor will just likely defend the answer on the answer key to avoid looking like a fool (I shouldn't say likely, but it would not be surprising). A separate professor would be able to give an objective viewpoint. Also, in a conceptual problem like this there is sometimes ambiguity in the wording of the problem. Maybe his professor thought he was saying something very clearly but most people interpreted it a different way.
 
  • #15
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I agree with those saying you should not let it go, but do post the problem here, as well, so that you don't go complain further unnecessarily. Oh, but in any case, if you are going to take this to your professor again or another one to take a look at, do it in a very respectful manner, no matter how angry you might be because of this.
 
  • #16
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Well, it's not good to annoy your teachers otherwise they often give you worse grades on your essays; usually unintentionally when their psychology scews with them when they read your name at the top of the paper. So I would be careful when dealing with this, but I agree this issue should be resolved. I would ask your professor to explain why it is wrong, and if you don't believe her, ask another physics professor or the dean of physics. If either verify your claim that her answer to the problem is wrong, politely state your concern with somebody in charge at your school such as a dean.

But I'd be careful with this issue. I remember an anthropology teacher who liked to cite really cliche textbook-style perspectives, and one week he marked my paper down 10% for providing inaccurate information about modern Chinese culture. It didn't matter that I was living in China nor did it matter that I had been living in China/Taiwan on and off since I was seven years old, he simply marked the paper down and denied my claims. So I pushed successfully for him to hand me back that 10% on that paper through the dean, but after that my scores on the essays he assigned went from 85%-95% to 75&-85%; I lost 10% on every essay thereafter. When a teacher doesn't like you they can find a way to manipulate their own grading rubrics to work against you, so it is good to try to stay on good terms if you can. Decide whether or not 10points lost is all that much with respect to the total points you may require throughout the term before deciding if it is worth taking the risk of getting your teacher against you.
 
  • #17
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Well, it's not good to annoy your teachers otherwise they often give you worse grades on your essays; usually unintentionally when their psychology scews with them when they read your name at the top of the paper. So I would be careful when dealing with this, but I agree this issue should be resolved. I would ask your professor to explain why it is wrong, and if you don't believe her, ask another physics professor or the dean of physics. If either verify your claim that her answer to the problem is wrong, politely state your concern with somebody in charge at your school such as a dean.

But I'd be careful with this issue. I remember an anthropology teacher who liked to cite really cliche textbook-style perspectives, and one week he marked my paper down 10% for providing inaccurate information about modern Chinese culture. It didn't matter that I was living in China nor did it matter that I had been living in China/Taiwan on and off since I was seven years old, he simply marked the paper down and denied my claims. So I pushed successfully for him to hand me back that 10% on that paper through the dean, but after that my scores on the essays he assigned went from 85%-95% to 75&-85%; I lost 10% on every essay thereafter. When a teacher doesn't like you they can find a way to manipulate their own grading rubrics to work against you, so it is good to try to stay on good terms if you can. Decide whether or not 10points lost is all that much with respect to the total points you may require throughout the term before deciding if it is worth taking the risk of getting your teacher against you.
I agree 100% with zketrouble. Proceed very carefully!! And if possible, try to act as a group instead of individually!!
 
  • #18
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If you're going to accuse someone of being wrong, you better make damn sure you're right. Post the question and work.

That's a life-lesson applicable to any area.
 
  • #19
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micromass: I agree, acting as a group as opposed to individually is much more effective.


And as Shackleford said you better be pretty sure you're right before making accusations, esp. if you want anybody to take you seriously ever again. You started the forum insinuating that your professor isn't all that bright, so if you're wrong this time that doesn't mean you won't be right next time. Be certain of what you are pushing for by asking other physics professors so that you don't burn your bridges; keep them intact for whenever any of your professors misgrade your assignments/exams.
 
  • #20
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By the title of your thread, I think the first thing you need to do is to stop seeing your teacher as stupid. I would bet that at some point you've stubbornly defended an answer you gave, only to realize later that you were wrong. Does that make you stupid? No, it makes you human. Realize that she's an intelligent person who might have made a mistake, but who also might be right. You'll get a lot further in solving the problem with that sort of attitude.
 
  • #21
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OK, new idea..
Do you know anyone who got the answer right?
Since the teacher may not be that stubborn if the whole class answered wrong..
 
  • #22
mathwonk
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are you saying you got the whole question wrong because of a disagreement over a minus sign?
 
  • #23
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Animals like wolves work in pacts...humans should too
 
  • #24
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In life you have to learn to stand up for yourself. If college is supposed to prepare you for the outside world then he should learn to speak up.
In life you have to learn when it's not worth the trouble. If college is supposed to prepare you for the outside world, then sometimes you have to learn to let things go. A lot of getting through life is to know which fights are worth it and which ones aren't.
 
  • #25
symbolipoint
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The course in which this troubling exercise occurs is Physics 1, and you say,

It was a simple vector question where the gravity is referenced as positive and thus downward acceleration should be positive as well, however she insisted that it is negative because it is going ''down''.
The class is in a learning situation in which students are developing critical thinking and learning conventions of problem descriptions and problem solving. Many students will be annoyed.

More than that, the B.S. degree in Engineering may not be everything about this instructor. What else was not stated but in fact included in her courses and experience? The mere degree title of Bachelor of Science does not always tell everything.
 

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