Educators or Salesmen Who Sold Their Souls to the Devil?

Discussion in 'Scientific Statistics Math' started by Richard Ulrich, May 12, 2005.

  1. I think this is one topic that is falling of the shelf right now. I know
    that when I took diffEqs, Laplace Transforms were taught as a nifty way of
    solving the equations. I'm in a biomedical engineering department, and
    would love to have our students who don't concentrate in Electrical
    Engineering (our "Instrumentation Track" students get this skill in
    spades!) have exposure to transforms in their diffeq course, so we can
    build on it in future coursework. It's not taught there, unless a student
    goes on to take "Advanced Differential Equations". We've managed to sneak
    the topic into our Circuits course for non-electrical engineers, which is a
    service course taught by the EE dept.--but it doesn't really belong there.

    Scott Seidman, Jun 15, 2005
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  2. Richard Ulrich

    BMJ Guest

    Scott Seidman wrote:

    Shuffling essential topics around between courses like that is something
    that's concerned me. I used to teach one which became a catch-all for
    topics that apparently didn't fit anywhere else, so the result was a
    hodge-podge of unrelated material, making it not just difficult to
    teach, but also difficult for the students to learn.

    When stuff like that happens, it's a good time to overhaul the curriculum.

    When I took my Fourier analysis course during my third undergrad year in
    mechanical engineering, we were shown some areas where boundary value
    problems would appear and how Fourier series could be used to solve
    them. One shortcoming of that course was that there wasn't more time to
    show more such examples.
    BMJ, Jun 15, 2005
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  3. Richard Ulrich

    clemenr Guest

    Actually, the answer was three hours. It was a lesson for me as well as
    the students. However, I did get good feedback from the students later


    clemenr, Jun 15, 2005
  4. Richard Ulrich

    Bruce Weaver Guest

    When I experience one of those 'epiphanies', I try to identify any
    crucial bits of information that allowed me to have the sudden insight.
    In some cases, I've looked back and thought that I would have had the
    insight a lot sooner if things had been explained more clearly in
    courses I'd taken. When I'm teaching or explaining things to others, I
    try to give them the crucial bits of information that I felt I was
    missing in hopes that they will have the insight a lot sooner than I did.

    This may be too vauge for anyone to understand what I'm talking about,
    so let me give an example. In the section on one-way (between-groups)
    ANOVA, intro stats textbooks often show that MS_between equals n times
    the sum of the squared deviations of group means around the grand mean.
    When I first learned about ANOVA, I did not understand why one needed
    to multiply by n (so no doubt, I just memorized the formula). I did not
    realise at the time that if I did NOT multiply by n, I would be getting
    an estimate of the variance of the sampling distribution of the mean,
    NOT the variance of the raw-score population. To get the variance of
    the population, you have to multiply the variance of the sampling
    distribution by n. This is a variation on the formula SE = SD/root(n),
    of course. I am fairly certain that I would have grasped this MUCH
    sooner if someone had explained it clearly when I was first learning
    about ANOVA.
    Bruce Weaver, Jun 15, 2005
  5. Richard Ulrich

    BMJ Guest

    Bruce Weaver wrote:

    I did that, too, but it often backfired on me. Either the students
    weren't interested or, as one of my former superiors might have put it,
    I should have concentrated on just showing the equation and how to plug
    numbers into it. More than that, the students didn't need to know.
    Sometimes an explanation for something eluded me, so I would turn to the
    course textbook to figure out the material. Unfortunately, I had some
    courses where that wouldn't have helped either, as the text chosen was
    terrible. Fortunately, however, such instances were very rare.
    BMJ, Jun 15, 2005
  6. [ ... ]
    Here is a piece of advice that we (in sci.stat.*) have
    offered to students, occasionally. If your textbook
    is terrible, go to the library and browse in other
    textbooks. And Google sometimes helps.

    Either activity *might* help even if your textbook
    is pretty good but doesn't happen to set right with you.
    Richard Ulrich, Jun 16, 2005
  7. Richard Ulrich

    BMJ Guest

    Back when it happened, I was rather young and foolish. As a grad
    student, I would have needed a pack horse to carry all the books I
    borrowed in order to get through some of my courses.
    BMJ, Jun 16, 2005
  8. Richard Ulrich

    Rich Lemert Guest

    ABET accreditation takes place at least once every six years;
    provisional accreditation ("we found some serious problems that you
    need to address") incurs a repeat visit from ABET after three years.
    They do go back to the previous report to see what problems the program
    was having during the previous visit, and what changes they planned on
    making for the next six years.
    In the United States, professional registration can be earned with
    as little as four years of experience if one is a graduate of an
    accredited engineering program. If you come from an unacreddited
    program, I think it takes something like 15-20 years of experience
    (IIRC). This is independent of one's nationality.

    I've known of two types of programs that didn't feel it necessary
    to be accredited. One was a small program in southern Louisiana, where
    the engineering school was supplying the local chemical industry.
    The companies seemed happy with the engineers they were getting, and the
    school was placing its graduate. (Of course, anyone wanting to move to
    a different part of the country - where they would be unfamiliar with
    the school - was going to have problems.)

    The other type of program that doesn't feel accreditation is needed
    is the large, well-known research program. I haven't verified it for
    myself, but I've heard that Princeton's engineering programs went for
    several years without accreditation. After all, "everybody knows who
    we are and how good we are - besides, our graduates are going to become
    research professors, so they don't need to get their hands 'dirty'
    doing 'real' engineering."

    Rich Lemert
    Rich Lemert, Jun 16, 2005
  9. Richard Ulrich

    BMJ Guest

    Rich Lemert wrote:

    We don't have that choice up here. Anyone wishing to practice
    engineering has to be registered in the applicable province. That's
    dictated by legislation.

    BMJ, Jun 16, 2005
  10. The problem is false negatives. Lots of students fail, how many of them
    fail because they have trouble with the lecture format.
    Never assume what is obvious to you is obvious to students
    True, but what was his obligation to you as his student? He could have
    said come over to my office, let's talk and pointed you at Schaums.
    They did help you right?
    Who told who what to teach what. This is finally an open question as
    curricula can differ between sections and schools.
    In other words they were all quite happy to see road kill in the center
    of the hallway.
    Joshua Halpern, Jun 16, 2005

  11. Averaging across a class, or even better across all sections has an
    amazing effect on accuracy and precision and even helps teach a bit of
    statistics. In practice this is what a professional does when he
    repeats the measurement multiple times, but there is not time for such
    work in any single teaching lab.

    josh halpern
    Joshua Halpern, Jun 16, 2005
  12. Richard Ulrich

    BMJ Guest

    Joshua Halpern wrote:

    But how many of those tried to work around any difficulties they were
    having prior to failing?
    Now how difficult is it to use an index? I knew how to do that in high
    school and no formal training was required.

    Or are students nowadays being educated so poorly that using an index
    becomes an arduous task?

    He expected that the students starting that course knew what partial
    derivatives were and how to determine them. One can't blame him for
    that as it wasn't his job to teach it.
    Whether he wanted to help me on that matter or not was his privilege.
    As I mentioned in a different message, the department didn't think it to
    be a major obstacle.
    And, as it turned out, it wsn't a particularly important issue. One
    weekend with the book and I was set for the remainder of my undergrad.
    They accepted my application based upon my transcript from the college
    I did my first year at, and, by doing so, took responsibility.
    I did my first year in a transfer program at the college, which was
    affiliated with the university, so I would assume that there was some
    agreement as to who taught what and how.
    On the other hand, situations like that were a test of character, a
    means of seeing whether I had what it took to be an engineer. Taking
    the initiative is part of that.

    BMJ, Jun 16, 2005
  13. Richard Ulrich

    straydog Guest

    For all of the many lab courses i) I took, and the few ii) I taught, and
    iii) the laboratory _work_ I did and got paid for (either as an
    undergraduate or graduate student) I came to "a" realization that students
    would learn a lot more about an experiment, learn a lot more about
    science, and learn a lot more about themselves if there were a) many
    fewere experiments, b) they did them over again (for many reasons [and
    "professional" scientists do do them over again <at least I did> more than
    2-3 times]) c) much more looking over the shoulder by the teacher to see
    exactly what the student is doing, attempting to do, manual technique,
    why, what doing wrong, how, etc., etc.

    But, like big shitty corporations trying to cheat anywhere they can,
    chitzy cheapskate teaching institutions cut budgets for lab courses,
    trivialize procedures, and stick a ignorant-uncaring TA (who took the
    same course the previous year? And, didn't learn anything either?) in
    to supervize (blind leading the blind?) 20-30 students who in the end
    don't learn anything.

    The Milikin oil-drop experiment lab was excellent, but also my graduate
    level veterinary virology lab and my graduate level immunology courses
    were very good (immun took 20 hours of time per week, got credit for 4),
    We all got our own rabbits to immunize (rabbit in restrainer, hypodermic
    needles, syringes, hit the right vein, pray the rabbit didn't kill itself
    trying to break out of the restrainer). Viro lab: we were using live mouse
    virus, everyone did their own cardiac puncture on their own rabbit
    (needed two other guys to hold down the rabbit)
    straydog, Jun 16, 2005
  14. Richard Ulrich

    Herman Rubin Guest

    However, schools are not automatically reaccredited, even
    those which are clearly more than adequate. Several years
    ago, I was on the faculty senate when Purdue was coming up
    from reaccreditation. Some of the pieces of information we
    were given was what happened at other clearly good schools
    to delay the reaccreditations, such as not having "adequate
    five-year plans" or "not doing enough to retain students."

    The administrative junk has crept in here, as elsewhere.
    Herman Rubin, Jun 16, 2005
  15. (Herman Rubin) wrote in $:
    That's the point. Reaccreditation is not automatic, nor should it be. In
    the current rounds going on now, some departments are being reviewed now,
    based on a new model of requirements, and some are having a good deal of
    trouble. Of the schools you're talking about, though, I'd be suprised if
    any actually had their accreditation yanked, as opposed to simply delaying
    the reaccreditation.

    I have my problems with the process, but all in all, I think it's a good
    exercise, and its probably rare that a curriculum loses quality as part of
    the process, and quality probably rises often enough.

    Scott Seidman, Jun 16, 2005
  16. Richard Ulrich

    Caligula Guest

    I can see why you were a failure in your teaching career.
    Caligula, Jun 18, 2005
  17. Richard Ulrich

    BMJ Guest

    Who said I failed?
    BMJ, Jun 18, 2005
  18. Yes. It is fairly trivial. For example, I knew someone who carried
    around a thermometer and would constantly estimate temperatures and
    check that againt the thermometer. He was accurate to about 1 F between
    20 and 100 F. You can do this with weights, volume, etc. Repetition
    and immediate feedback are the keys.

    josh halpern
    Joshua Halpern, Jun 18, 2005
  19. Richard Ulrich

    Jerry Dallal Guest

    The student who has difficulty should let it be known as
    soon as the problem arises. This is another argument
    against lectures. Unless the instructor is adept at
    mental telepathy, it is difficult to tell if that student
    in the back row is having problems, and even more, what
    kind of problems.

    I find variations of Mosteller's minute memos helpful in this regard.
    Jerry Dallal, Jun 19, 2005
  20. Richard Ulrich

    Caligula Guest

    You did.
    You said that you couldnt take it anymore and left.
    That is failure in my books.
    Caligula, Jun 19, 2005
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