Friday, February 29, 2008

I can't believe I had this conversation

My supervisor: "So, how did class go today?"

Me: "Pretty well. But this is one weird mix of students for an introductory course. I reckon more than half of them have done linguistics before."

Her: "How do you know?"

Me: "For example, I began the lecture today by asking them what they thought people need to know about a language in order to be able to speak it. I started them off by saying, for instance, people need to know how to pronounce the sounds in the language. I was hoping the students would come up with things like, 'what order the words go in,' 'a list of words and their meanings', etc, and that would let me lead in to talking about the different "levels" of linguistics. But instead they all said stuff like, 'People need to know morphology, syntax, semantics, phonetics' and so on. So clearly they've all been here before."

Her: "Maybe in future you shouldn't be so interactive, but just lecture."

Me: "It's just, I hoped if I started by getting them talking, that would set the scene and they'd feel the lecture was an safe environment to ask questions or whatever later on."

Her: "I generally prefer students not to ask questions either."

I start laughing, then realise that wasn't a joke. I try not to look as shocked as I feel, but maybe I don't succeed, because she justifies herself.

"It's just, I don't always understand their questions. And it's so disruptive. Also, smart questions frighten the slower students off."

12 Comments:

Mikael said...

Oh, no, she did NOT just say that, did she?

When I teach, I encourage, entreat and exhort my students to interrupt and interact with me. The WORST kind of lecture or lesson or whichever format I happen to be teaching in is when everyone just watches with a blank experssion on their faces.

When I'm there as a student, I interact with the teacher. I ask whenever I don't understand things, as well as whenever I suspect I almost have reached some bit of understanding that I hadn't when the lecture started. Partially because if I'm wondering, then there sure as h*** will be more people around than me wondering too.

And people don't want that in their classroom interactions? My mind boggles.

liina said...

I hope this is a joke because I find it hard to believe that academics like that exist...

Miss M. said...

Well... one of my SIGN mentees is in your first year class and (rather randomly in the middle of some subtle questioning) she said you were her best lecturer this week, so just go on as you started and watch how the class reacts as a whole and I figure you can't go too far wrong.

Most of the undergrads I know prefer the interactive lecturing style, which probably would help you keep tabs on how everyone's going during classes a lot better than just talking at them would.

RageyOne said...

wow! that is just terrible. no interaction? goodness. that's the first time i've heard that.

Propter Doc said...

Uhm, I wouldn't like to be interuppted while lecturing with random questions. Not British you see. Lectures are not interactive, and unless there is specific permission or time given to ask questions in, then one simply does not.
I'm not joking.
Now, having been in Canada I can see the benefits of greater interaction but as a new lecturer I have no idea how to control and guide the interactive bits. So initially I'll be happy with silence and questions at the end.

Average Professor said...

"It's just, I don't always understand their questions. And it's so disruptive. Also, smart questions frighten the slower students off."

That's WEIRD. I understand the disruptive bit, sort of. You know, sometimes you get students who monopolize the class with their many questions. But, that's not THAT frequent. Also, not wanting the students to ask questions because she doesn't understand them . . . isn't that sort of like the students not wanting the professor to speak because they can't understand HER? In either case, it's hard to really get the students to learn anything!

StyleyGeek said...

Propter Doc, I know that there is a an academic culture in which lectures are simply lectures with no interaction. And in university environments where that is the norm and students expect it, that's fine. (One of the big differences is that in some British unis---at least Oxbridge---one-on-one tutoring still exists, so there are other environments where you can follow-up what was discussed in the lectures.

What bothers me is that people like my supervisor think that the non-interactive lecture is SUPERIOR to the interactive one. Everything I've seen about teaching and learning theory suggests otherwise. I'd be willing to concede that each style has its place, but not that silent students are BETTER.

StyleyGeek said...

Oh, and Miss M, that's great to hear! Although I'm a little worried that you'll now hear about all my screw-ups too :) Also, maybe your mentee just liked my classes because the first one was only 12 minutes long. I've heard that's pretty popular among students :)

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Hey! You had the same weird spambot that I had!

Miss M. said...

Come now, Styley, have some confidence!

StyleyGeek said...

Miss M, self confidence is the first thing they take away from you when you do a Phd. Seriously, you have to hand it in when they issue you with your student card.

Breena Ronan said...

LOL. There are lots of academics with that attitude. Still, I would be surprised if someone said that out loud. Usually that attitude is a sign of fear; fear that you won't be able to control the class, fear that you won't be able to answer their questions and will look stupid...