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  1. #11
    Senior Member Eileen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orangey View Post
    When I first started, I (rather stupidly) thought it would be a good idea to draw out nifty little diagrams to help explain some of the more difficult concepts. I was even so generous as to use my personal printing allotment to print out fancy ones to use as a study aid for the big exams. Apparently, not everyone was able to follow, despite my long explanations. In fact, I would say most were not able to follow, so I concluded that I was wrong and they were a retarded idea.
    Orangey, what do/did you teach? Also, I did this "nifty little diagrams" business too. I loved doing it. I took great joy in it. But they didn't work.
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  2. #12
    Blah Orangey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eileen View Post
    Orangey, what do/did you teach? Also, I did this "nifty little diagrams" business too. I loved doing it. I took great joy in it. But they didn't work.
    Haha! I did teach public speaking and mass communications process (basically intro to history of media and media criticism.) The latter required more diagrams - or so I thought. It's so sad after you spend several hours making a really awesome, completely logical (if perhaps overly-detailed) diagram only to have it thrown back in your face as "not helpful" and "too confusing." Especially after you've just spent two class sessions trying to verbally explain the same thing to no avail...usually some cursory/abridged version of a Gramsci/Althusser/Baudrillard/McLuhan/some other nutbag paper that the prof - from the safety of his detached position - thought would be a good idea to assign the muddle-headed children as reading. You just start to despair!

    From experience, I think the maximum number of elements you can reasonably expect the kids to understand at one time is three. If you have a diagram, it can't be more complicated than a triangle. If you have an outline, no more than three bolded categories. And if you have instructions, no more than three steps can be involved.
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  3. #13
    On a mission Usehername's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orangey View Post
    From experience, I think the maximum number of elements you can reasonably expect the kids to understand at one time is three. If you have a diagram, it can't be more complicated than a triangle. If you have an outline, no more than three bolded categories. And if you have instructions, no more than three steps can be involved.
    I agree.

    Also: if you give verbal instructions, 1/3 of the class will not hear it. Yet if you talk to them one on one and give them direct guidance, they'll say, "oh, I remember you saying that, I just didn't see how it applied to me, but now I do."

    So I've found it helpful to give these anecdotes as pre-emptive past experiences in a "haha you guys aren't this clueless, are you?" way. They're extra motivated to give the required attention that will help them link things together.
    If you give them a direct benchmark and expect them to be better than your past students, most will rise.

    I've learned to not be afraid of what seems to be excessive repetition, especially from multiple mediums.
    *You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.
    *Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.
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  4. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    Well, from my lazy-european-POV, it sounds like you simply don't have enough time to do what you're supposed to do. I know 2 people who work as a research and teaching assistant and they have to teach 20hrs per month. Why is the US so hard on its scientists?
    It varies from department to department. My friend who TA's in the physics department only has to grade homeworks and exams. No labs. No discussions.

    I just so happen to work for one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) Chemistry programs in the country. We're like the WalMart/McDonalds of teaching chemistry.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  5. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Usehername View Post
    I've learned to not be afraid of what seems to be excessive repetition, especially from multiple mediums.
    I guess that's the main thing to remember.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  6. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eileen View Post
    Ugh. First of all, it sounds like you simply don't have enough time to teach--but I may not be very efficient (or teaching chem may be different from teaching English). In any case, to be effective, I am SURE--as you are--that students have to be working problems themselves in front of you.
    Well, it was my first time.

    I had read-up on what was most effective, and asked people who had TA'd before what they did, and started off doing the small group thing, based on those suggestions. That actually felt like it would have been most efficient and effective, if the students did not seem to hate it.

    One of my friends followed the same format and the students seemed to love him. Granted, he is also much closer to their age.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eileen View Post
    Usehername has good points, particularly about creating a supportive environment that acknowledges that it doesn't come automatically and also holding students accountable for practicing on their own and coming in having engaged with the material. Funny, this is the second time this summer I've come across Dweck's name; I was hoping to work on a writing project with a guy who uses her research a good deal in helping people prepare for standardized tests.
    Unfortunately, we had a professor for the class who would talk about these things, and many students were annoyed and wanted him to spend more time on subject matter than on "life lessons". I think one main problem is that his tone came off as bitter rather than helpful.

    I think when I said similar things, they saw me as an extension of the professor, and wasting their time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eileen View Post
    Sometimes when I had a limited time with students, I'd have a list of concepts or issues and I'd just ask them to assess how much they needed help on those and help them through exercises related to their needs as they identify them. This didn't always work because sometimes the kids were clueless about everything or didn't know what they didn't know. I hope that is less the case in an undergrad chem class than it was in a ninth grade English class, though.
    Well, that's why I asked people to work problems ahead of time. Very few did.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eileen View Post
    Personally, I really believe in having students learn from each other as much as possible--so maybe identifying your strong/motivated students and grouping the others around them? Again, I'm not that efficient a teacher--this is a principle of mine, that classrooms are communities and students learn from each other. However, it seems like it *should* be efficient, in my opinion. You could be circulating during that time and observing patterns where they get stuck, and then you could address those patterns.
    I tried to get people to form study groups outside of class. Many did that. I think that was one place I succeeded.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eileen View Post
    Hmm. Good luck.
    Thanks.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  7. #17

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    Sorry about the multiple posts in a row.

    I wanted to respond yeterday, but I had other things I needed to finish first.

    Quote Originally Posted by SuchIrony View Post

    For Students:
    What are the things teachers have done for you that have really helped you learn?

    Allow me to ask questions and not feel stupid.

    Encourage me to follow my interests. If there is a research paper, I have alot of leeway as to the kind of topic to choose.

    Clear on what I'm supposed to learn and why its important.
    I hope I did a good job on the first part. I do try to ask leading questions to have them answer their own question through reasoning. But that should not be interpreted as them being stupid. Perhaps I should clarify that.

    I tried to get a survey of what student's majors were and wanted to try to connect what we learn into that. But there really wasn't much time, and students found it "impractical."

    Quote Originally Posted by SuchIrony View Post
    What are the things teachers have done that didn't do anything to help you learn?

    Busywork
    Not allowing for questions
    Humiliating students
    Not knowing the significance of the stuff being taught
    Presenting material too fast or too slow
    Hmm. I wonder what would constitute "busywork". Because it is absolutely essential that students practice.

    Unfortunately, what is too slow for some is also too fast for others. I tended to error on too slow.

    Quote Originally Posted by SuchIrony View Post
    For Teachers:
    What are the things that you have done that seemed most effective?

    Allow students to ask questions

    Allow students time for reflection and to practice material being learned

    Try to make the material interesting- use a variety of approaches such as audio-visual, lecture, discussion, group work, reflection, etc.
    Do you have any concrete examples of how you did they second two things?

    Quote Originally Posted by SuchIrony View Post
    What are things that you have done that have seemed like wastes of time?

    Tendency to lecture too much.

    Unrealistically high expectations. Hate having to explain the same things over and over.

    I spend waaaay tooo much time grading assignments.
    I really, really dislike the idea of lecturing. I preferred to just help people learn how to solve problems and understand concepts.

    However, as things turned out, just doing problems in front of the class became the defacto discussion session. The students' feedback was that they really liked this a lot better than my earlier attempts.

    To be honest, I think I made the problems seem too simple. Maybe that's why they liked it. Because it felt like I was showing them how to do problems they didn't know how to before.

    But, if that's why they liked it, then they failed to understand the importance of doing things themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by SuchIrony View Post
    What are some things you done that seem to confuse or misinform students?

    I didn't do it deliberately but I think the biggest criticism students had of my teaching was that they thought I went over their heads. I presented the material too quickly, was too theoretical without enough real-world examples. Sometimes I didn't spell out the expectations clearly enough.
    Hmm, I did get some of this also. But more when I was trying to stress the importance of things, and telling them how it will relate to things they'll need to do in the future.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  8. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Orangey View Post
    I don't have any constructive advice to offer here, but I can sympathize with the frustration that comes when you run into these types of students...the ones who act like they need guides for everything or else they won't be able to function in the world. I would usually just buckle and give them stricter instructions/parameters/rules to memorize, because I honestly think they might need some sort of cognitive re-training to rid them of that kind of need for security, but you can't really do that with your subject. Then again, I wasn't a great teacher, so there's probably a simpler solution.
    Well, I pretty much ended up doing what you did. With the amount of time she was putting in for this class, she was barely learning anything. I almost resigned to the fact that each new problem for her need a new procedure to follow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Orangey View Post
    Perhaps it's true that you were bad about this, but often I find that the students are just stupid and either don't listen or have some sort of mental deficiency. I mean, spelling out expectations is one of the simpler things that you do as a teacher, and usually it's required that you lay them out in written form AND talk about it extensively, so unless you were highly incompetent - which I doubt - then I tend to blame the students for simply being (bafflingly) dumb.

    I mean, honestly, when you distribute syllabi with assignment expectations and grading policies on them (which most likely have to be approved by a supervisor/advising professor/some such superior), talk about them in class, THEN distribute individual assignment sheets and talk about them again, you really shouldn't be getting a constant stream of emails asking about expectations (which happened to me and most of my fellow TAs on a regular basis, to the point that I decided to modify my email policy so that it basically said, "do not contact me unless for X, X, or X reasons. Anything else will be ignored.")
    Well, I don't think "dumb" is as accurate as not being self-reliant.

    Some of these students are smart, and hard-working. But haven't figured out how to read actively, and get the information they need from materials they are presented.

    To some, it is just a mountain of reading material from different classes that they are not sure how to tackle.

    Quote Originally Posted by Orangey View Post
    As Student:
    The most effective thing for me was the teacher's ability to relate the course material to broader contexts. So, I liked when they would go on tangents and really stress the grandeur of the subject. It made me understand the importance of what I was learning and inspired me to learn about it independently. Also, whole-class discussions were very effective for me because (1) they demystified everyone else's levels of knowledge (so that I could no longer reasonably think that I was unprepared for the class, or somehow behind or slow), and (2) they kept me accountable - I had to make sure that I fully understood something well enough to articulate myself in front of a large group.
    What I worry about with large groups is that many students just stay quiet and don't participate.

    Quote Originally Posted by Orangey View Post
    PowerPoint and small group activities.
    Prior year TAs had told me that small group activities worked well. So that is what I tried to do initially. What, specifically, did you find wasteful about small groups?

    Also, to make sure all the TA's cover at least the basics, we are given a stock power point presentation for each lab.

    Quote Originally Posted by Orangey View Post
    I don't know, I never allowed teachers to have that much influence over my own learning process. But I suppose the usual would be bad...prejudice, "playing favorites," being incompetent in general.
    I suppose that is the basic problem. Those of us who become grad students are the ones who like to learn and see teachers as people who only help in that process.

    But, I think the majority of freshman are very passive learners. They just don't take responsibility for their own education, and may see school more as a process of jumping through hoops to get grades and certifications.

    Quote Originally Posted by Orangey View Post
    As Teacher:
    Mostly things which stressed group accountability. Stuff like organizing physical space such that the students had to look at one another when they spoke, and immediate peer-evaluation (it seems harsh at first, but kids really do like to impress one another.) I've never seen kids so well read as when they knew they would have to otherwise face humiliation in front of their peers.
    Hmm. I don't know if I like the humiliation idea. But I do think, somehow, they need to know that they aren't going to do well without doing some work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Orangey View Post
    Small group activities. Sometimes deliberately (yes, I'm guilty of that shit.)
    So you deliberately wasted time?

    Quote Originally Posted by Orangey View Post
    When I first started, I (rather stupidly) thought it would be a good idea to draw out nifty little diagrams to help explain some of the more difficult concepts. I was even so generous as to use my personal printing allotment to print out fancy ones to use as a study aid for the big exams. Apparently, not everyone was able to follow, despite my long explanations. In fact, I would say most were not able to follow, so I concluded that I was wrong and they were a retarded idea.
    Funny, I just found out where I am assigned and who is teaching lecture. The main instructor has a reputation of doing these sort of things. Hopefully, the students do not get completely lost.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  9. #19
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    I really, really dislike the idea of lecturing. I preferred to just help people learn how to solve problems and understand concepts.

    However, as things turned out, just doing problems in front of the class became the defacto discussion session. The students' feedback was that they really liked this a lot better than my earlier attempts.
    Of course they liked it. You did all the work, and they didn't have to do anything. This may be the path of least resistance for you, but not necessarily the path of greater learning for them. Doing problems for them can be useful IF the students are engaged in the process, asking questions as you go, and answering questions you put to them. Ask them what the next step is, or if they can explain why you did a particular step of the solution they way you did it. Do something wrong on purpose and see if they catch it (be sure to reveal it if they do not). It's passive "listening" that should be avoided.
    I've been called a criminal, a terrorist, and a threat to the known universe. But everything you were told is a lie. The truth is, they've taken our freedom, our home, and our future. The time has come for all humanity to take a stand...

  10. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    Of course they liked it. You did all the work, and they didn't have to do anything. This may be the path of least resistance for you, but not necessarily the path of greater learning for them. Doing problems for them can be useful IF the students are engaged in the process, asking questions as you go, and answering questions you put to them. Ask them what the next step is, or if they can explain why you did a particular step of the solution they way you did it. Do something wrong on purpose and see if they catch it (be sure to reveal it if they do not). It's passive "listening" that should be avoided.
    I tried to keep them as involved as possible by asking questions as I went, and a lot of the things you mentioned. Like I said, I really don't think passively watching someone do problems is very effective, so I tried my best to see if I can get them thinking.

    One little trick I used was to not use a calculator and telling them to check to make sure I am doing things correctly. They seemed to then enjoy catching my mistakes then (or at least getting to the answer before I did). They didn't just catch simple math errors when I did this. It seemed like they were trying to check everything.

    But this time, my sessions are going to be two hours long. I may try the group work thing again. I am not really sure why that was so bad.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

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