Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Binomial distributions and multiple choice tests

October 24, 2012

Readers of my blog know that I generally regard multiple choice tests (MCTs) as an adequate tool to assess student knowledge of, and proficiency with, a given set of topics. I have written about this subject here and here.


Letter from the trenches

February 20, 2012

I have received a letter from a student who obtained their doctoral degree with me a few years ago, and after one postdoctoral appointment decided that their heart was really into teaching.
They wrote me to let me know how things are going, and gave me permission of posting their letter here (I am withholding the person’s name). It may be of interest for those who might be considering switching from research to a teaching career. Currently, only a tiny fraction of doctoral degree holders take that path.


Education disadvantage

January 21, 2012

If a cash-strapped province or state had to make painful cuts to public services, the immediately noticeable effect would be the outright elimination of some of them.
One would not think of, say, laying off a fraction of all bus drivers and asking the remaining ones to work longer hours, in order to keep all existing bus routes active — some would be phased out, based on various considerations of priority, in order to minimize the inconvenience to denizens, while continuing to offer as much of the original transportation as possible. Some people, however, would have to go to work or to the grocery store in some other, less convenient or more expensive way.


Double whammy

January 16, 2012

We all understand that, sometimes, financial hardship is simply a fact of life. And I do believe that most of us are willing to endure painful sacrifices, in the pursuit of a common good.
What exasperates people, is the perception of a general lack of vision, of a concrete, well thought out crisis management plan, on the part of those in charge of overseeing operations. Particularly disconcerting is a reassuring public rhetoric, filled with generic statements of understanding of the gravity of the situation, and of resolve to ensure that the period of scarcity be weathered with minimal suffering and no permanent damage, and a concomitant pattern of actions suggesting all but the opposite.



December 15, 2011

Imagine the following, hypothetical situation: the owner of a small high-tech company needs all of his employees retrained, in view of the adoption of a new, company-wide software system.
He decides to send a few of them to a week-long course with a private firm, specialized in offering short courses on the particular software that will be acquired. A firm representative promised him that at the end of the course, these employees will be proficient with the new system, capable of operating and managing it, and able in turn to train other colleagues. That way, the company will be up to speed in little time.


The boss is out to lunch

November 18, 2011

The two basic criteria to establish whether someone is your boss are:
– Can they fire you ?
– Can they give you a raise ?
Unless the answer to both questions is yes, then they are not your boss.

(can’t recall who said that to me… my dad, maybe ? Nah, it’s impossible, that would make him right…)


Sliding into Fall

September 17, 2011

Oops, it did it again…. The Fall term 2011 has managed to sneak up on me, like its 2010 predecessor. All of a sudden, it’s all back. I am facing a crowd of 400+ students, teaching the same introductory physics class I taught last year, in the same humongous, with its microphone, its two big screens and no white board.


Free agent professor

June 13, 2011

If you’re a college or university teacher, whom do you work for ?”
Thus begins Stanley Fish‘s latest New York Times editorial on the subject of academia. Here are a few excerpts:
Academics [...] want [...] to work in an organization and enjoy its benefits and at the same time be their own bosses.”


Stayin’ alive

October 26, 2010

Fall term is now past its midpoint. Last week I gave my first midterm exam (a second one will be administered on the last day of classes), and the class average was remarkably close to that of the midterm which I gave two years ago, when I taught the same course. Back then enrolment was 198, this time around it is over twice that.


Tell me sweet little lies

October 16, 2010

The following scene has taken place, pretty much as described, several times over the past fourteen years — obviously the details vary from time to time, but the canvas is always the same: I am helping a freshman physics student in my office. The person came to ask for help or clarifications, typically on a homework problem.
Me: OK, so, we are then left with the following ratio, where you have at the numerator g, and at the denominator the square root of g. The ensuing simplification leaves us with just the square root of g
Student: Excuse me… how did you get that ?
Me: You mean, how did I arrive at that ratio ? OK, let me redo the algebra for you…
Student: No, I have followed up to this point… but, how do you go from the ratio to having just the square root of g ?
Me: Well… um… you have g at the numerator… its square root… at the denominator… (I can tell that the person is not following… stares at the paper as if it contained hieroglyphs)
Student: I am sorry, I do not understand… how does that work ?



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