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  1. #1
    Emperor/Dictator kyuuei's Avatar
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    Default Teaching Philosophies

    I know this sounds like an angry fit, but I really do want some input as to the different thought processes when it comes to teaching, as I've noticed a total lack of efficiency in my classes this semester in comparison to other classes in previous semesters.

    I'm under the impression that students take classes because it's difficult to learn it on your own in comparison to having someone with expertise teaching you. That's why people take classes normally instead of reading and testing out of courses.

    Since this, to me, is the primary function of classes, students should succeed with an A every time if they 1. Attend every class and participate by taking notes, paying attention, and completing classwork. 2. Do all homework assigned. and 3. Study these two things before tests.

    Here's what I don't understand. Why do teachers bother to set things up in a non-straight forward way? I understand challenging students, but why do things like this:
    - Read entire chapters for homework assignments.
    - Don't assign homework or require any readings but have these things on the test
    - Give notes in class in length and depth that are not at all covered on tests.

    If it's important, it should be on the test. If it's not, there shouldn't be much note-taking on it. If you assign entire chapters and then go over the chapter in class, fine.. but why assign entire chapters and never bother to go over it? This is the reason I go to classes, to avoid reading and attempting to comprehend these things on my own. Why not make things on the test (like assignments online with quizzes pulled verbatim for the test) required homework or classwork?

    These points are, in my opinion, attempts to trip up students and lower success, which is the opposite of what I thought education was all about and I don't know why teachers do these things. This is especially true for the first tests of the semester, which give you a feel for how following tests will be conducted.. But test scores are a major deal, so knowing what to expect for the first one should be included in detail in comparison to future tests.

    Two examples: We have to write an essay on Obama, Hannity, and Maddow on healthcare. The essay needs to be at least two pages, and we have to watch hours of videos throughout the course of a couple weeks to create this essay. ... It's world religion class, and none of it pertains to neither world religion itself or the test we need to have it done by. We also took lengthy notes on different philosophers on religion, tons of vocabulary, and none of any of it was on the test. Infact, the only thing that was on the test was questions taken straight out of a chapter. We never talked about feminism once, but had questions about it on the test. The class average was a 70, with only one A at 90.

    Biology class never required chapter reading, masteringbiology.com's assignments, etc. as homework. We take extensive notes in the class, the teacher talks in tantrums and gets off subject, tells the class that the tests are more lecture based and note-based, and gives a review sheet covering the four chapters. Many questions were lifted directly from the book and the website's quizzes and weren't covered in class, and many questions on the review never made it to the test.. but there were plenty of questions omitted from the review. Class average was a 59, with the highest score an 82.

    Why would teachers set things up in a way where the students are going to struggle and fail so much?

    To summarize: I understand challenge is good and all, but where do you cross the line between the professor being lazy and undedicated, and where students want their hands held?
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  2. #2
    . Blank's Avatar
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    Because all of life is a test and we skip over the things which are unimportant and/or irrelevant, rather than taking the sum of all of our experiences and learning from them.
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  3. #3
    IRL is not real Cimarron's Avatar
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    Something a professor said to our class during freshman year, and I thought it was a cool way of looking at it: He said he is not going to teach "down to" us. He is hoping to bring us up to his level of knowledge. (This seems to be reasoning for setting high standards.)

    There are also time-constraints, I guess, coupled with if the professor/teacher has an ideology of "these students should become experts in this subject." This results in students being expected to cover a huge range of material, but only time for a one-hour test means only hitting a few points in that body of material. Professors make this known--sometimes they admit they like this method because it "forces" the students to "cover their bases" by study everything, not knowing which few topics will be chosen on the tests.
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    I'll try to answer some of your questions as someone who teaches 2nd year uni students biochem.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyuuei View Post
    I'm under the impression that students take classes because it's difficult to learn it on your own in comparison to having someone with expertise teaching you. That's why people take classes normally instead of reading and testing out of courses.

    Since this, to me, is the primary function of classes, students should succeed with an A every time if they 1. Attend every class and participate by taking notes, paying attention, and completing classwork. 2. Do all homework assigned. and 3. Study these two things before tests.
    I disagree. I don't hand out As unless I'm really impressed. Understanding the bare minimum for class is - as I've said - the bare minimum. Showing an ability to evaluate that information and critique it, as well as link it to other fields and paradigms... That is what makes an A student.

    IMHO, students take classes to get a starting point for that particular subject. You find that as you go to higher levels, what you "learn" or memorise for tests isn't actually "right", or even particularly accurate. That is why I am not impressed with students who turn up to class hoping to get all of the answers from the teacher. Being able to evaluate and decide what is the "right" answer - that is what university is supposed to teach you.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyuuei View Post
    Here's what I don't understand. Why do teachers bother to set things up in a non-straight forward way? I understand challenging students, but why do things like this:
    - Read entire chapters for homework assignments.
    - Don't assign homework or require any readings but have these things on the test
    - Give notes in class in length and depth that are not at all covered on tests.

    If it's important, it should be on the test. If it's not, there shouldn't be much note-taking on it. If you assign entire chapters and then go over the chapter in class, fine.. but why assign entire chapters and never bother to go over it? This is the reason I go to classes, to avoid reading and attempting to comprehend these things on my own. Why not make things on the test (like assignments online with quizzes pulled verbatim for the test) required homework or classwork?
    1) You read entire chapters to get a global picture. If all you need are the dot-points, what for do the assignment? It's the equivalent of the teacher giving you the answer.
    2) I don't understand what you mean.
    3) Again, for the global picture.

    It is up to you to decide what is "important". That is why the scope of the reading is always larger than what will be tested. Why are you so test-focussed? The point of university is to get an education and learn as much as possible, not to do well on tests.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyuuei View Post
    These points are, in my opinion, attempts to trip up students and lower success, which is the opposite of what I thought education was all about and I don't know why teachers do these things. This is especially true for the first tests of the semester, which give you a feel for how following tests will be conducted.. But test scores are a major deal, so knowing what to expect for the first one should be included in detail in comparison to future tests.
    The guy running the class that I teach has tried for years to lower the average to just under 75. I have grown to agree with his philosophy - that As lose their value if too many people get them. Also, if covering the requisite points was all that was needed to get an A, there would be no separation whatsoever between students who REALLY understood the material and thought critically, and those who simply memorised what would get them through the test.

    Quote Originally Posted by kyuuei View Post
    Biology class never required chapter reading, masteringbiology.com's assignments, etc. as homework. We take extensive notes in the class, the teacher talks in tantrums and gets off subject, tells the class that the tests are more lecture based and note-based, and gives a review sheet covering the four chapters. Many questions were lifted directly from the book and the website's quizzes and weren't covered in class, and many questions on the review never made it to the test.. but there were plenty of questions omitted from the review. Class average was a 59, with the highest score an 82.
    *shrugs* There are incompetent teachers everywhere. Most of them just want to get paid and go back to their research. My previous supervisor was known to turn up to class to tell the lecture hall "I didn't prepare for your lecture because I was out golfing this weekend".

    Quote Originally Posted by kyuuei View Post
    Why would teachers set things up in a way where the students are going to struggle and fail so much?

    To summarize: I understand challenge is good and all, but where do you cross the line between the professor being lazy and undedicated, and where students want their hands held?
    I would say, as someone who came from an Asian cram school where the average mark was 50 - that it made me a stronger person and less grade-focused. I hate holding my students' hands and giving them the answer, because I KNOW that most of the information is out there. They just don't want to have to read 1 extra word beyond what they ABSOLUTELY NEED TO. That, to me, defeats the entire purpose of going to university.

    I've been told that as a teacher I care "far too much" about whether the students are really learning or not. I've also been told to stop bending over backwards for them. But I think if you don't care, and just feed them the answers, they will not grow intellectually. In which case, I will have failed in my job as a teacher.

    God, that was a lot more repetitive than I thought it would be.

  5. #5
    Habitual Fi LineStepper JocktheMotie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post
    I'll try to answer some of your questions as someone who teaches 2nd year uni students biochem.



    I disagree. I don't hand out As unless I'm really impressed. Understanding the bare minimum for class is - as I've said - the bare minimum. Showing an ability to evaluate that information and critique it, as well as link it to other fields and paradigms... That is what makes an A student.

    IMHO, students take classes to get a starting point for that particular subject. You find that as you go to higher levels, what you "learn" or memorise for tests isn't actually "right", or even particularly accurate. That is why I am not impressed with students who turn up to class hoping to get all of the answers from the teacher. Being able to evaluate and decide what is the "right" answer - that is what university is supposed to teach you.



    1) You read entire chapters to get a global picture. If all you need are the dot-points, what for do the assignment? It's the equivalent of the teacher giving you the answer.
    2) I don't understand what you mean.
    3) Again, for the global picture.

    It is up to you to decide what is "important". That is why the scope of the reading is always larger than what will be tested. Why are you so test-focussed? The point of university is to get an education and learn as much as possible, not to do well on tests.



    The guy running the class that I teach has tried for years to lower the average to just under 75. I have grown to agree with his philosophy - that As lose their value if too many people get them. Also, if covering the requisite points was all that was needed to get an A, there would be no separation whatsoever between students who REALLY understood the material and thought critically, and those who simply memorised what would get them through the test.



    *shrugs* There are incompetent teachers everywhere. Most of them just want to get paid and go back to their research. My previous supervisor was known to turn up to class to tell the lecture hall "I didn't prepare for your lecture because I was out golfing this weekend".



    I would say, as someone who came from an Asian cram school where the average mark was 50 - that it made me a stronger person and less grade-focused. I hate holding my students' hands and giving them the answer, because I KNOW that most of the information is out there. They just don't want to have to read 1 extra word beyond what they ABSOLUTELY NEED TO. That, to me, defeats the entire purpose of going to university.

    I've been told that as a teacher I care "far too much" about whether the students are really learning or not. I've also been told to stop bending over backwards for them. But I think if you don't care, and just feed them the answers, they will not grow intellectually. In which case, I will have failed in my job as a teacher.

    God, that was a lot more repetitive than I thought it would be.
    I agree with everything you say here.

    It seems, Kyuuei, that you're expecting university to emulate not only the SJ centered education style of K-12, but emulate your military experience as well. University is far more centered upon the individual taking things into their own hands, with the teachers more as a tool to help you learn and understand the material, than as a gatekeeper that holds all the answers. Obviously, there are exceptions, but I find that is the general experience.



  6. #6
    Babylon Candle Venom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post

    The guy running the class that I teach has tried for years to lower the average to just under 75. I have grown to agree with his philosophy - that As lose their value if too many people get them. Also, if covering the requisite points was all that was needed to get an A, there would be no separation whatsoever between students who REALLY understood the material and thought critically, and those who simply memorised what would get them through the test.
    thats great in a vacuum. The problem is that uni is not in a vacuum. We dont pay 25+ grand a year "for the learning experience". People do it so they can get a job. If I have to compete with a bunch of kids whose GPAs are built on the idea of "perfectly understanding everything covered in the book + class = A"...and meanwhile my GPA gets ruined the teacher who throws bullshit questions on the test unrelated to the course material covered, just to lower the avg, thats not going to make me a happy customer who paid 25 grand a year.

    I know you dont agree with me though. This is part of what Kuyeii is saying though.

    Uni is basically built to create university professors right now, rather than functioning workers. This is a problem, because 98% of us, dont want to be uni professors and are being evaluated in ways that really aren't relevant to our employers. Its kind of like an unknown philosophers response to plato's "philosopher King" who would go under years of schooling: if our leaders had to do that much schooling, it would be like "rule by school masters".

    Kuyeii, keep perspective. You need these grades to get a job. So just play their dumb game and pretend that you too, want to be a school master someday

  7. #7
    Emperor/Dictator kyuuei's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nonsequitur View Post
    I disagree. I don't hand out As unless I'm really impressed. Understanding the bare minimum for class is - as I've said - the bare minimum. Showing an ability to evaluate that information and critique it, as well as link it to other fields and paradigms... That is what makes an A student.
    I don't think participating actively in class daily, showing up to class daily, doing all homework and classwork assigned, and studying said material is at all bare minimum. Perhaps we'll just have to agree to disagree here.

    IMHO, students take classes to get a starting point for that particular subject. You find that as you go to higher levels, what you "learn" or memorise for tests isn't actually "right", or even particularly accurate. That is why I am not impressed with students who turn up to class hoping to get all of the answers from the teacher. Being able to evaluate and decide what is the "right" answer - that is what university is supposed to teach you.
    Idealistically, I entirely agree. But the thing is, I'm not getting a degree to be an expert in Biology. I'm getting a degree because I NEED one to get ANY job. There are students in my class forced into a biology-majors class because the total amount of students in the college exceeds the slots for non-major science alternatives. These students' GPA are suppose to suffer so that some teacher can have an idealistic impression of their careers as a university instructor?? It doesn't seem to fit imo. I don't pay $600 dollars to be told I'm a shitty student because I don't want to be an expert in a field, I just want to know more about it and get a good grade while I do.

    It is up to you to decide what is "important". That is why the scope of the reading is always larger than what will be tested. Why are you so test-focussed? The point of university is to get an education and learn as much as possible, not to do well on tests.
    I'm test focused because the standards for how professors grade, and how my GPA in turn looks, is test-focused. I hate tests, I'd rather not take one at all if it were up to me. They're inaccurate, stress-inducing, and all-too-often they don't accomplish their primary objective.

    If the point of university was to get an education, GPAs wouldn't be so damn important. People could go to whatever university they wanted, be it community college or Havard regardless of their grades and scores. I dunno where you teach at, but please let me know so I can go there for school if this is their philosophy.

    Also, if covering the requisite points was all that was needed to get an A, there would be no separation whatsoever between students who REALLY understood the material and thought critically, and those who simply memorised what would get them through the test.
    I'll refer to my point above when I say I don't need to be an expert in biology. I'd rather not be an expert in World religion, and I definitely have no desire to critically think in the religious world. I take this class because I HAVE to, not because I choose to.. If college was about being an expert in a subject, getting your bachelors would be two years of class-specific, intensive work.. not 120-130 hours of filler courses and bullshit.

    *shrugs* There are incompetent teachers everywhere. Most of them just want to get paid and go back to their research. My previous supervisor was known to turn up to class to tell the lecture hall "I didn't prepare for your lecture because I was out golfing this weekend".
    Disgusting, imo. I'm sorry to hear that. Students pay a lot of money to keep these professors and get their grades and education from them. He might as well have slapped them all in the face.

    I hate holding my students' hands and giving them the answer, because I KNOW that most of the information is out there. They just don't want to have to read 1 extra word beyond what they ABSOLUTELY NEED TO. That, to me, defeats the entire purpose of going to university.
    Well, no, part of the awesome part of university is to stop holding hands, guiding them step by step, and make them run instead of crawl, or at least get to walking. I get that.

    Why assign things that have nothing to do with anything though? Why give out a review and mislead students into what MAY be on the test, then put hardly nothing from said review on it? It's not that I don't want to read more than I need to, but that with the amount of work assigned, and with the goals I want, I don't have the TIME to go off on a tangent in Biology. I can barely make the hours I need to study for what's necessary now. And that's just ONE class, I have 4 hours just like it. I know we're not babies and all, but we're not exactly computers either.

    I appreciate your input, and I entirely agree on a lot of your points. I feel the education system SHOULD work the way you describe. The problem is, it doesn't. and Professors failing to recognize that because they want that idealized approached in their teachings shouldn't make the grades near impossible to obtain. I shouldn't have to cry myself to sleep because I won't get an A that I ABSOLUTELY, WITHOUT DOUBT *NEED* just so I can go to the school I WANT to go to so I can do the REAL learning. Because the bottom line is.. Ritzy colleges don't go "Oh. World religion, she really understood the material but made a B because of x and y..." They just see a B and not an A in a supposedly "easy" class.

    I consider myself a decent student. I do my homework, I study, I show up to class and actively participate and ask questions as needed. I make myself understand the material as far as I possibly can given the instruction so that I can hopefully do well on the tests, which measures that comprehension. I don't know why there should be anymore effort than that required to be an A student.

    To Jock: I don't want college to be like K-12. I thought the entire primary school thing was a joke, and Im glad to be out of it for good. I just want college to be possible for someone that isn't JUST a full-time student. That's all. It's not unreasonable to say "Make an A *possible for me to obtain, instead of some label in the distance like "Altruism", where a human cannot truely be altrustic, but can only strive to be as close to it as possible."

    Quote Originally Posted by Babylon Candle View Post
    We dont pay 25+ grand a year "for the learning experience". People do it so they can get a job. If I have to compete with a bunch of kids whose GPAs are built on the idea of "perfectly understanding everything covered in the book + class = A"...and meanwhile my GPA gets ruined the teacher who throws bullshit questions on the test unrelated to the course material covered, just to lower the avg, thats not going to make me a happy customer who paid 25 grand a year.
    Exactly. Absolutely. Thank you for writing this. The problem is, it isn't JUST education. You're exactly right. Pretending this is anything much more than a business now a days is ridiculous and naive. I WISH it weren't that way, but it IS.

    Everyone and their dog is getting a degree now, and people have to to catch up with them and have a job. They have to have bigger, better grades, they have to compete for whatever stable jobs they can, and jobs look STRAIGHT at the scores and GPAs for their foundation in how 'well' I did in school.

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    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    I used to teach math at a university, so I can speak about my personal teaching philosophy. Let me first say that you should keep in mind that I taught math, because that had a significant impact on how I established my teaching philosophy. Math courses are very vertical in nature. Course A is a prerequisite for course B which is a prerequisite for course C and so on. There is very little freedom in the order you can take math courses compared to other subjects.

    This is my philosophy on teaching. I grade based on how well a student demonstates on the tests their understanding of the curriculum. I am handed a list of topics from a curriculum committee, and I know that the students need to understand this list of topics to be prepared for the next course. That is why demonstrated ability is all that matters. An "A" is awarded for demonstrated mastery. A "C" is awarded for demonstrated proficiency. A "D" or "F" is awarded for lack of proficiency, and the student will have to repeat the course.

    The amount of effort the student puts in does not affect my grading process. One student may master the concepts just listening in class. Another may have to study several hours a night to achieve the same level of comprehension. Effort does not matter to me, only ability.

    Likewise my ability to teach the concepts does not affect my grading decision. The first time I teach a course I will not do as good of a job explaining things as the second time I teach a course. However the first group is responsible for learning the exact same list of topics as the second group. They will both be graded according to ability even if the first group has to put in more effort to achieve the same level of ability. The tests are not modified if there are snow days, instead the topics are progressed through more quickly and the same material is tested. The tests were not modified to compensate for 9/11 attacks even though the students missed a class or two because of them. The students were still responsible for knowing the same material regardless of what the terrorists did. If I modify my tests, then the terrorists win! The curriculum was set, and I taught and tested to the curriculum. If I did not test on the whole curriculum then the students would not be prepared for the next course.

    Let me address some points brought up in the OP:
    Here's what I don't understand. Why do teachers bother to set things up in a non-straight forward way? I understand challenging students, but why do things like this:
    - Read entire chapters for homework assignments.
    - Don't assign homework or require any readings but have these things on the test
    - Give notes in class in length and depth that are not at all covered on tests.
    - Read entire chapters for homework assignments.
    This is not the type of assignment I would give in math class, but I can understand why a professor would do this. They want you to know the whole chapter. They don't tell you which parts they are going to test on, because they want you to know everything from the chapter.

    - Don't assign homework or require any readings but have these things on the test
    I don't understand this as well. It is one thing not to talk about a subject in class, but it is another thing if you don't even tell the students where to find the proper materials. I chalk this up to forgetfulness or just plain incompetence.

    - Give notes in class in length and depth that are not at all covered on tests.
    The only explanation I could have for this is that the professor disagrees with the decisions of a curriculum committee. The professor wants you to know X, but a committee has already decided you need to be tested on Y. Barring that it could also just be incompetence.
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    Senior Member Gewitter27's Avatar
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    Our district has a policy that pretty much states that EVERY STUDENT must do ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING in a group.

    Being a 96% I is no easy task in a world of 100% Es who haven't ever even HEARD of an I before.

    - Don't assign homework or require any readings but have these things on the test
    I guess those who don't pursue knowledge actively are screwed.
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    I am unsure what to draw from the 'school as knowledge' vs 'school as job qualification' contradiction.

    Perhaps, with increasing numbers of degrees, employers will look beyond degree / GPA. Portfolios and experience will become more important, GPA less so. This allows for idealistic teachers. And perhaps I am being too idealistic.

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