TEACHING: SOME MECHANICS
A presentation in the Graduate Course
Supervised Teaching (MATH 5019)
March 20, 2002
Dr. Bob Gardner
Werner Heisenberg teaching quantum theory at the blackboard
1. The Syllabus
The less obvious:
- Class name and number
- Meeting times
- Room number
- Your name
- Office number
- Your office phone number
- Your e-mail address
- Textbook and any supplements
- Math Lab hours
- Online help addresses (usually comes with adoption of the text)
- Sections of text to be covered (with a day-by-day schedule, ideally)
- Test days (maybe)
- Departmental and university policies (concerning departmental finals, attendance, cheating/conduct)
- Syllabus attachment (or web address)
- Homework assignments (maybe)
- Important dates (holidays, last day to drop, test dates, final time)
- Grading policy! Remember, the syllabus is your contract with the students. Put everything in writing and stick to it!
- A "motivational paragraph"
- Assign a variety! It's better to give numbers 1-80 "every other odd" than to give 1-20 all. Depending on difficulty, I'd say 20-25 problems per class.
- Should you grade homework? NO, I don't think so (at the freshman level). It could be LOTS of work for you, and hard to tell what is the student's work and what is his/her tutor's work (or the work of a classmate). However, a daily or weekly quiz (consisting of 1 or 2 problems) might be a good idea. Your main obligation is getting your M.S. degree - you may need to budget your time wisely.
- Make test questions similar to the in-class examples - maybe exactly the same... copy problems out of the book!
- No more than about 10 questions per test (depending on difficulty - this is maybe not a reasonable number of multiple choice questions, though).
- Spread problems out through the material to reflect amount of class time spent on the topics.
- Type the test,preferably in LaTeX so that you become proficient in this software and ready to type your thesis in LaTeX (you don't want to have to type your thesis, or any other mathematical work, in Word or WordPerfect!).
- GIVE PARTIAL CREDIT!!! (Unfortunately, this does not apply to multiple choice tests [which are the norm in Probability and Statistics, MATH 1530].) Make sure the students are aware that you only give partial credit when answers are partially correct! Grading is hard, messy and partial credit is subjective!
- Bonus questions are a good idea.
- Write out a detailed solution for each test (the "key"), post it and put a copy on reserve in the library.
- Leave space on the test for answers and maybe a box for their final answer.
- Grade the tests "assembly line" style. This keeps a bit of anonymity of the students, objectivity, and uniformity of partial credit.
4. The Lectures
- BE ORGANIZED!!! Start at the upper left-hand side of the board. Lecture "linearly." Don't go back and change the notes on the board or lecture by drawing arrows all over the place. Imagine yourself as the student and trying to write down a coherent version of the notes (at the same time, listening and trying to learn this new material).
- Write in complete sentences. Use equal signs and respect all mathematical symbols.
- DON'T WRITE INCORRECT THINGS ON THE BOARD!!!
- Bring two colors of chalk to class to correct errors.
- Work examples from the book (even numbered problems maybe).
- Don't write on the board and then stand in front of it while lecturing - keep on the move!
- Make eye contact with everyone in the class.
- If you get stuck on a problem, don't start lying! If you don't know the answer right then and there, say "I don't know!" "Punt" and give a detailed and correct solution during the next class period after you have had time to think it through.
- Don't be arrogant! you know much more than the students on the topic and you have nothing to prove. Above all, don't start making up stuff! It's okay to speculate or guess (sometimes it's even fun) if you don't know the answer, but make sure you label it as such.
- Erase the board at the end of class. It's a nice thing to do for the next person using the room, but more importantly it gives the students time to approach you in a more informal setting.
- Ask for help from the faculty.
- Talk with your graduate student colleagues.
- Mimic the teaching style of someone you consider a good teacher.
- Lead by example: show that you understand the math and you work hard at preparing for class. If you are sloppy and unprepared, you will certainly be leading by example, unfortunately!
- BE ORGANIZED!
- Lay down the rules and follow them.