Effective Learning

‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’

‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.

‘I don't much care where--‘ said Alice.

‘Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.

‘--so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.

‘Oh, you're sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’

[Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll]

Interview with your teacher

Question: What is the purpose of all those efforts in classroom?

Answer: All we do in classroom is to learn.

Question: Just “to learn”?

Answer: Yes. What we must further consider is effective learning.

Question: What is effective learning?

Answer: Effectiveness is the degree to which something is successful in producing a desired outcome. To me, a desired outcome is to see my students as technically well-developed professionals and high-caliber members of the academic society. It is even more rewarding when I see my former students as people bringing positive change to their society and as leading intellectuals. So, teaching-learning dynamics are effective wherever we can serve making of these professionals, academics and intellectuals.

Question: What is effective learning from the perspective of a student?

Answer: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Question: Should I attend each class hour?

Answer: I usually do not impose attendance. However, there is a strong association between performance and attendance. After all, it would be too costly to learn on one’s own in the absence of in-class instruction. At a minimum, students are expected to observe the official requirements of their Faculty and/or program.

Question: So, showing up in class is enough, right?

Answer: I must note that “to attend” does not only mean “to show up”, it rather has a connotation with “to come to class prepared and to participate in class discussions”. As I make course announcements in-class first, the attending students ensure they are informed real-time. Electronic announcements might take an additional twelve to forty-eight hours.

Question: Is classroom a boring environment?

Answer: To me, it is not. It is rather a quite enjoyable place. In my classes, you will see several popular culture references, short games and quite a lot activities of role playing. Still, everyone is expected to maintain a classroom conducive to learning. An informal atmosphere is OK, but it must be orderly. Everyone is expected to behave with basic politeness and civility. This includes not interrupting others’ word, not manterrupting especially, not playing with phones/computers unless it is instructed to do so, not coming late to class, not leaving the class early, not chatting during classes.

Question: Should I have the textbook?

Answer: Absolutely yes. In addition to your textbook, you are expected to follow a number of other readings where applicable. Weekly preparation to lectures includes reading the chapters of next lecture as well as solving couple of exercises assigned in the last.

Question: I have a good memory; can I rely on it?

Answer: Never memorize things. Yes, memorization has some role in triggering your learning, but it should eventually be replaced with skills of derivation and a full command of the conceptual framework. If you are memorizing only, then it is so unlikely that you will create something new. Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objective is worth to mention here. I usually refer to a revised version of Benjamin Bloom's work with the addition of the psychomotor domain as developed by Harrow, 1972. According to this study, the cognitive domain can be viewed as follows:

Knowledge: recognizing or recalling information. The words typically used here are define, recall, recognize, remember, who, what, where and when.

Comprehension: organizing and arranging material mentally; grasp a topic; collect together a battery of information and ideas. The words or phrases typically used here are describe, compare, contrast, rephrase, put in your own words and explain the main idea.

Application: applying the previously learned to reach an answer. The words typically used here are apply, classify, use, choose, employ, write and example, solve, how many, which and what is.

Analysis: thinking critically and in depth; solving problems. The words and phrases typically used are identify motives/causes, draw conclusions, determine evidence, support, analyze and why.

Synthesis: thinking creatively to present something original; producing original communications, making predictions and solving problems. Synthesis questions differ from analysis questions as they do not require a single correct answer but allow a variety of creative answers. The words and phrases typically used in synthesis questions are predict, produce, write, design, develop, synthesize, construct, how can we improve, what would happen if, can you devise and how can we solve.

Evaluation: judging the value or validity of an idea, a solution to a problem, or an aesthetic work; offering an opinion on an issue through objective criteria, standards or personal values. Among the many words and phrases typically used here, evaluate leads the others.

Against this background, every course has a pre-designed target complexity over the Knowledge-Comprehension-Application-Analysis-Synthesis-Evaluation spectrum. In freshman year courses, I target up to comprehension; in sophomore year courses, I target up to application; in junior year courses, I target up to Analysis; and in senior year onwards it is almost always synthesis and evaluation.

Question: How long should I study?

Answer: The answer is simple: study a topic until you recall and use it on your own, that is, without referring to your textbook anymore. You see that there is no place for time in this recipe; that is, keep walking until you get to there. Still, keep in mind that midterms and finals do have certain dates. If you have an exam after two days and if your partner gives you a phone call to invite you to see a recent movie, then the decision is yours. Just assess marginal benefits, marginal costs, etc. before making your mind. Always remember the following two principles:

No Pain >> No Gain.

Garbage In >> Garbage Out.

Question: What gear do I need?

Answer: Unless otherwise specified, each student is expected to have a scientific calculator. Use of the calculator function of mobile phones in quizzes and exams is not accepted. Note that it is your responsibility to know how your calculator works, i.e. you are supposed to correctly key-in figures, perform a series of operations and obtain results.

Question: How can I have my voice heard?

Answer: For e-mails, use your university e-mail address, including in each correspondence your full name as well as student ID number. E-mails are simply high-tech letters. Each message must start with a salutation. A statement of your key message or question must follow through couple of paragraphs. Then the message ends with wishes, your name and electronic signature, if any. You may send a message anytime. However, those messages sent after 21:00 and at weekends must wait for the next working day. In emergencies, you may send WhatsApp or mobile text messages.

Note that, teacher-student relationship is considered to be bilateral. Regardless of its reasons, interventions from a third party are not accepted. As you are grown-ups, you are welcome to express your views to and discuss your concerns with me.

I usually do not answer, in person or via e-mail, the questions that are already answered in course syllabi or through electronic learning platforms provided by your university.

Question: I will never cheat. But what happens to cheaters?

Answer: Cheating ~ plagiarism is totally unfair and it will be penalized at a minimum with failure in the course and at a maximum with suspension from university. Why? It is simply the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own, so it is the same thing as stealing.

Question: What are the topics to be covered and how will the letter grades be given?

Answer: For the specifics of your course, see your course syllabus. Note that the course syllabus is thoroughly reviewed in the first lecture at the beginning of semester. Showing up in the first lecture is hence time-saving. Alternatively, you may visit the online learning platforms provided by your university for major updates on course description.

Each syllabus in my courses is valid up to a further notification during the semester. Upon the second week of the semester, every student is assumed to have read and understood its contents.