Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A teacher's dilemma

I am a "formula" teacher, when comes to grades, which means I pre-decide the formula of grade calculation before I start a class. This is because I tend to get very personal with things and I don't want my personal attitudes get in the way of fairness.

What happens from time to time, is that good students I have known for a semester fail the final exam. This troubles me. On one hand, I know they studied hard, enjoyed the class and understood the material well. On the other hand, they didn't perform in the final.

Exams are not perfect but they are regarded as common means of evaluation in modern education. I know relying on fair exam is actually only partially fair. But, relying on my personal impression of the students would never be fair. So I choose to rely on the exam scores and my formula even though I am really really bothered by that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Intro Stats Projects [Fall 2005]

http://statproj.ccnmtl.columbia.edu/65/Home

Friday, December 02, 2005

Suggestions on teaching?

The GSAS teaching center asked me to write a short paragraph on suggestions to new GSAS teaching fellows. I squibbed the following:

Basically speaking, teaching involves three components: the instructor, the students and the materials to teach. To better structure your teaching, you need to “know” these three components well.

  • Know the instructor (yourself). Be clear about your teaching style. Don’t wait till when you start looking for job to write your teaching philosophy. Start a draft today and stick to the principles you truly believe when you teach. Don’t know how to start? Just google a sample online.
  • Know your students. Students come to your class with different backgrounds, different interests and different needs. The better you know them, the better you can plan your teaching inside and outside the classroom.
  • Know the material. Isn’t this a given? Well, your teaching should be more than the materials printed in the textbooks. Based on your own understanding, translate the materials in the textbooks to a form that is more accessible to your students, by using examples, demos, illustrations, etc.

I am not saying I know the best about teaching. But this is what I believe. I believe to do better is to understand better and think deeper. Go back to the roots. Not just for teaching but also for research. I think I can be called fundamentalist but not as usually defined:

A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.

No, this is not me. I believe in fundamental principles but I believe there are different principles for different things and I believe different people could choose to believe in different principles. I guess that is why I like to top-down organize things. :)