Showing posts from July, 2010

Know What You Want To Accomplish

At some point, a friend of mine gave me the book “Thinking for a Change.” I’ve read bits and pieces over time but never the whole book. This morning, I picked it up and randomly turned to page 54 where I found one paragraph: “It doesn’t matter whether you were born rich or poor. It doesn’t matter if you have a third grade education or possess a Ph. D. It doesn’t matter if you suffer from multiple disabilities or you’re the picture of health. No matter what your circumstances, you can learn to be a good thinker. All you must do is be willing to engage in the process every day.” That is exactly the goal I have for my students—word for word. I want each of them to learn to be a good thinker and I firmly believe you attain that goal by engaging in the process every day. That is how I structure my class and that is what I want to promote and that is what I want to help them accomplish.

Three Opportunities

(1) – If you have read this blog for long, you know that I am a big believer in communications with my students. I want them to understand what I am doing and why I am doing it. In addition, I’m also a big believer in marketing my course. I think students will work harder if you can convince them that the course is fair and the material provides a true benefit. Hence, I like for my students to walk in on the very first day of each semester with some amount of knowledge and enthusiasm. If that happens, I think the battle is half won. The building process in terms of their knowledge and interest has already begun. For that reason, I have already sent the students who have signed up for my fall classes two emails to start “priming the pump.” What I am trying to do is help them realize that they can learn a lot from my course (and enjoy doing it) but only if they are willing to do some serious work and thinking. The benefits outweigh the costs. If you are interested in this co

I'm Still Alive (but things might make me laugh myself to death)

Because of the end of the semester, some heath issues (since resolved), working on research, and being a bit burned, I haven't posted anything for several months. But like one of the best business tacticians of our times says, "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in". So I guess this is my "welcome back" post. I just received a referee's report that made me laugh at its awesomeness. First a bit of background: I sent a paper to a lower-tier journal back in June of 2008. There was no response for over a year, so I sent several emails (and voice mails) to the editor with no response. Finally, getting fed up, back in November, I sent him an email (and follow-up voicemail) asking the editor to withdraw the paper. We subsequently got a revise and resubmit another journal. Then today I get this from the original journal (i.e. the where I'd withdrawn the paper long ago): RE: XXXXX and the use of XXX I have now received a report on you

What Do We Add?

Over the last few years, my wife and I have become big fans of the video classes produced by The Teaching Company. Two or three times per week, we will watch a 30 or 45-minute video lecture on art or literature or history or religion prepared by a college teacher. I am amazed by how much I now know about topics that once were totally foreign to me. In watching these videos, I am occasionally reminded of a question that comes up in colleges now and then: Do we need live instructors? Why don’t we find the very best college teachers and film their classes? Then, put those videos up on the Internet and everyone (or, at least, our students) can learn the material without the need of a classroom or a teacher. Well, the easy answer to that query is that a college education has to be more than the conveyance of information to a passive student taking notes. So, doesn’t that automatically raise the next question that we need to address as teachers: What are we adding in our cla

Five Great Characteristics

I am not sure that any students know exactly what a professor really wants from them. My guess is that if you sent a note to your students for the upcoming fall and simply asked—what do you think I want from the students in this class—you’d get some simplistic answers like “learn the material” or “pass the tests.” Is that really what you want? It sounds so dull. No wonder students find education boring. No wonder they often put out less than an excellent effort. If that is not what you want from the students in your class, why not tell them? First, you’ll shock them by your honesty. Second, you’ll take an immediate step toward having them think differently about your class. You might even move them closer to what you really want. I had a very interesting principles class last spring. Okay, I didn’t have that many A students but the class was just very lively and really got into learning about financial accounting. The discussions were marvelous. I looked forward