Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Gimme some (money)

September 27, 2010

In the latest post, DrugMonkey challenges graduate students who lament their meagre pay and long work hours, allegedly often comparing unfavourably even with those of unskilled workers, to name or describe any low wage job that they have held before graduate school, presumably to substantiate the underlying claim of exploitation and harsh treatment of graduate students, at the hand of supervisors and universities.

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On multiple choice tests (part II)

August 23, 2010

Having described in my previous post the most important deficiencies of problem-based tests (as I see them), I am now going to list what I perceive as the most important merits of Multiple Choice Tests (MCTs), and illustrate why I regard them as a better choice, especially for introductory, foundation type courses. Here too, in order to keep the discussion concrete I shall focus on physics tests.

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On multiple choice tests (part I)

August 18, 2010

When I started teaching, in 1996, I never imagined that I would some day make use of multiple choice tests (MCT). To me, multiple choice would be a tool to conduct surveys, possibly suitable to test one’s proficiency with road signs and traffic rules, or other subjects requiring simple memorization — surely not a person’s mastery of a subject like physics.

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The “three-paper” rule

May 30, 2010

It is customary these days, for students pursuing a doctoral degree in a scientific discipline, to co-author a number of articles published in peer-reviewed, international scientific journals, during the course of their studies. In many disciplines, the widespread expectation is that by the time doctoral candidates are ready to take the final exam, their curriculum vitae will sport a number of publications, most of which with them as leading authors and/or in high-impact journals in their field of study.

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Tell me what you want (what you really really want)

March 14, 2010

.. if you are gonna be my student… OK, let’s leave it at that…

Establishing a good professional and personal relationship with one’s supervising faculty is inarguably one of the key aspects of a smooth, successful completion of a doctoral degree. It could be argued that such a relationship is one of the most important in the lives of both, as it normally extends beyond the student’s graduation, sometimes lasting a lifetime. Conversely, it is precisely when the dialogue between the two deteriorates, when impatience, frustration, mistrust or resentment build on either side, that things become difficult, mostly for the student. I would be surprised if the vast majority of cases of graduate students abandoning their doctoral studies after completing their course requirements, were not directly or indirectly attributable to a falling out with their major professors.

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Course web page

January 17, 2010

Of course it is useful, why would people do it otherwise ?

Since 1996, when I taught my first course at the college level, I have always set up a web page for the courses I taught. It has never really been an issue to me, whether I should do it or not — it seemed like a no-brainer. I mean, really, why would anyone not take advantage of a technology that allows a teacher to provide quickly and efficiently updated course information to all enrolled student ?

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Yes, you can

December 1, 2009

Postdocs and graduate students working with me often act surprised when they ask me if “it would be OK” if they, um, were to, “be absent for a short time”, like, er, uh, maybe “two weeks at the very, very most”, and my answer to them is “sure, no problem, do you need to take more time ? Feel free to take three weeks, if you need to.”
What is wrong with me ? Do I not care if they work or not ? Would I just let them slack off indefinitely ?

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Copyright and graduate textbooks

September 8, 2009

A problem with graduate textbooks, especially in the sciences, is their cost. It is quite common for a graduate student to shell out several hundred dollars to purchase required textbooks for graduate courses. In fact, because graduate courses are typically taken early on, when a student is fresh in graduate school and may not have yet acquired the necessary cash management skills, this expense can deal a serious blow to a student’s finances.

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And now, a word from our sponsor…

June 30, 2009

I have owned a personal computer for over half of my life now (now, that is a depressing thought). My first was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, which I bought when I was an undergraduate student in Genova, in 1985. After moving to the US, in 1988 I bought my first IBM PC compatible, and for fourteen years that was to me the paradigm of home personal computing. Some (actually very few) of my friends bought Apple computers, and I kept wondering what the hell they were thinking.

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Teaching Statement

November 18, 2008

“I hate students. I’d love teaching if it wasn’t for them.”
Attributed to a ‘Ms. Goldsmith’, DeVry University

How should the “teaching statement” of a college junior (tenure-track) faculty candidate read ? It is not difficult to find plenty of opinions on this subject, all over the web. A discussion at Incoherenly Scattered Ponderings has rehashed some of the most commonly debated points, and has prompted me to exhume my own “teaching statement” from the ashes of my postdoctoral past, ended over eleven years ago.
In those days, the job market for a wannabe academic physicist was arguably bleaker than it is now. Positions at research universities or national laboratories were few and far between. Thus, for those of us who would rather not have worked in industry, broadening our search to include institutions whose primary goal was not scientific research but teaching, became a matter of survival.
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