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Re: On Light: Surviving College

Each year we do a survey of the entering freshman class (the
whole college,
not just physics), and one question is "How many total hours per
week do you
plan to spend on course work (studying and doing homework for all classes)
beyond the time spent in class."

The answers to this question are very frightening. With a 15-hour load we
would expect an answer around 30 hours. Hardly any student chooses that
answer; most choose 5-10 hours per week. This means one of the
first things
we tell them (during orientation and during the first class
session) is they
will have to spend much more time than they originally thought.


(1) Come to class everyday.
(2) Get enough sleep so you can stay awake and focused in class
(class time
is 8:00-8:50 AM daily).
(3) Read the textbook before coming to class and be prepared to ask
questions about things that were not clear.
(4) Go over your notes each day; maybe even recopy them. Be
prepared to ask
questions about things that were not clear.
(5) Start problems and lab reports as early as possible so you
have time to
ask questions. If you do these the night before the assignment is due you
will be unable to ask questions and you won't have enough time to
do proper
proofreading and editing.

This is a great summary and I agree with it. Except with the second part of
(4). I work actively to avoid my students having to do this, especially
rote copying. (Other kinds of copying are OK) :-)
I also have problems with 8.00 classes, but that is a fact of life. I have
got better results when I provided coffee at 7.50.

I major on three points I have had *some* success with in my clients:

If you do these things (ie like Michaels's summary above) - If you work
efficiently and in an organised fashion (keeping up with lectures, working
ahead etc)
1. You will save time
2. You will do a better job and get better results
3. You will feel better about yourself

These of course appeal more to adolescent males. My wife has changed
teaching jobs in the last year from teaching in an all males school to an
all females school. Huge difference. Maybe putting males on hold for
three - five years while hormnoes run their course may be worth considering.

When teaching students I try to build in support for students weaker in
organisation. Milestones, progress checks etc.

I also try to encourage collaboration in course completion activities,
learning activities, problem sheets etc.

And one final comment: my current work is largely with *faculty* rather than
students - in a whole range of subjects from music to technology. They have
about 60 - 90 writing projects I process each year (depending on the
definition of 'project'). I have similar problems with them: too little
time given to taks, poor planning, rush jobs, etc.
eg A project is due and has been on the books for a year. It cannot be
completed because "When I went to the library the last essential book and
two magazines were out" - and they went to pick them up on the way to my
office. :-(
I have discovered that the three points above have been the most powerful
motitavors in staff training workshops/personal communications that I can
find along with two others:
Find good models to work from
Collaborate and share your work with others for feedback

The next thing that has helped is recognition of learning styles, working
styles and personality. Some people *need* to talk over things before they
can do them. They may need help in sorting out a place for this.
Some people need help breaking things down into manageable bits. Others
need help in getting an overview. Intelligent, mature, comptetant and
successful in other activities, these staff can be helped by such simple
basic contacts and ideas.
I could go on . . .

Hmm. To much digression. I will stop there.

-Derek, up far to early (6.00am here), just listening to news reports on
Timothy McVeigh.