Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

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.


Online notes

August 5, 2012

Why do students who take courses with me (but colleagues tell me of similar experiences) routinely insist that I scan and post online my very own notes, the hard-to-read, disorganized and sketchy gibberish that I use for lecturing, whereas if I post a neatly put together summary of the basic concepts and formulae — typically after painstakingly making slides, drawings and animations — I am invariably told that “that stuff is useless” ?


Instructional technology and college education

June 30, 2012

In this op-ed on the New York Times, Jeff Solingo, editorial director of the Chronicle of Higher Education points to a few concrete, urgent actions that universities and colleges across North America should take, in order to weather the financial crisis affecting institutions of higher education.


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.



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.


Must be me…

October 31, 2011

The Globe and Mail has a story about an “experiment” (I use quote-unquote because I personally see nothing new about it, but I come back to this below) carried out by a college teacher who has broken down her 200-student class into small groups, to work through their latest assignment.


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.”


Teaching and research: horse and carriage, or oil and water ?

December 25, 2010

Do research and teaching go together ? Do accomplished researchers generally also make (more) effective classroom instructors at the post-secondary level ? Do the research experience, and the first-hand, in-depth knowledge of a subject that one acquires in years, decades of investigation (e.g., in the laboratory, or at the computer) have a noticeable effect on one’s ability to convey general, basic concepts to students, especially in a classroom setting ?


I want to know, what you are thinking….

December 9, 2010

Imagine the following scene: you are vacationing at a five-star resort. It is costing you a fortune, but it is what you saved money for, and hey, we only get to live once, right ?
Your stay is ending, it’s your last day. You want to use the fitness room and put yourself through a vigorous workout, before you check out, at 11 am. As you walk into the fitness room, however, you are stopped by resort personnel, and asked to step outside. Surprised and bewildered, you ask for explanations; you are politely but firmly told that you won’t get to use any of the amenities, in fact not even the TV in your room — the only thing that you will be permitted to do, from then until check-out time, is fill out a customer satisfaction form.