Posted by: CJ | March 17, 2010

Teaching Notes to Self

  1. Vague problem statements on problem sets annoy students greatly. Vague research questions are great because you can play around with what works. But vague problem statements are really annoying because, eventually, you’re going to be graded based on however the professor or grader interpreted what you were supposed to do. And that interpretation will usually be much less vague, and have much less slack, than the problem statement.
  2. If you are purposefully using vague problem statements where the vagueness is an added part of the difficulty, make that clear in every assignment and from the beginning. If a student’s also being graded on interpretation of the question, that’s important for them to know.
  3. Quiz and Test questions should make giving partial credit viable. A quiz or test question that’s essentially all or nothing gives relatively little information about a student’s ability or knowledge. Such questions should be avoided.
  4. Having students buy textbooks that are of little use in the class is mean. A student spends a lot of time using whatever materials are used in the class, and if the textbook is used sparsely and its specific quirks ignored, then the student is left with a book they’re unfamiliar with at the end of the term. Likely a rather expensive book. But if the professor doesn’t use any book, students could be stuck without a decent reference to jog their memory about whatever they learned in the class. Depending on the class, that could come close to rendering the class moot and useless in the long-run. (At least in terms of course content.)
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