Sep. 10th, 2010

scottahill: (Default)
I had a chat yesterday with a visiting speaker at UT, who has recently written a textbook and has done work in Physics Education Research. As we talked, it became obvious just how different our teaching styles were. For one thing, he's written a giant physics textbook, presumably retailing in the usual $200 range, while if I were to write a textbook it would go online and be print-on-demand or some such; the cost of textbooks is pathetic. Besides that, though, he uses online homework systems, apparently with multiple-choice answers, and multiple-choice Scantron exams (generated randomly by a computer) with no partial credit. I appreciate the difficulty of grading homework for large classes, which is why I just don't grade homework (although I do give multiple-choice no partial-credit quizzes every week, perhaps a partial approchement.) On exams, I give partial credit for everything, even multiple-choice questions (if students want to explain their answer, and they make sense, I'll give them credit for it). He uses Powerpoint slides, I hate using Powerpoint in class; I prefer to create my "slides" in class as we go. He uses "clickers" in class so that students can vote on answers anonymously; I prefer letter cards so I can ask students to "defend" (or just explain) their answers.

Hopefully we're both successful in what we do. But I can't help seeing his approach as being rather impersonal. His style presumably works very well in those online classes which are "designed" by some expert and then proctored over and over again by glorified TAs. And if I wanted to be paranoid, I might suggest that he imagines a world where universities don't have to hire professors anymore, but sit 250 students into a lecture hall in front of a video screen showing his presentations (available at a reduced rate if you act now!)

He was a nice-enough guy, but still.


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