Complexity without explaining it

Mar 26, 2015 • Luke Johnston

One graduate course I took looked interesting and fit with my research. The course was a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. The class had a one hour portion specific to the graduate students and two hours of both grad and undergrad. I really liked the graduate portion. The professor taught it well, it was much more discussion based and was more applicable to research skills. The remaining class time on the other hand… was not so good.

In general the professor taught it well; however, there were many times when there was so much complexity to the material, but the professor did not slow down or make sure everyone was following along. It was too much stuff, too quickly, and without taking it step-by-step. This was especially true of one of the quest lecturers! He had a classic ‘expert blind spot’ going on, as he was clearly on the top of his research expertise, but did not convey the material in a way that was targetted to the students. Not only that, but the slides were… disorganized, non-uniform, and had content that was never talked about or explicitly mentioned it was not needed.

How it could have been fixed: The best way to have fixed the problem was to any one or more of these things:

  1. Slow down and explain the complexity step-by-step, trying to keep in mind the knowledge level of the students.
  2. Use formative assessment tools to get a sense of students knowledge.
  3. I could have asked more questions to clarify the complexity.
  4. Speak to the professor afterwards.
  5. The prof could have gotten the course content evaluated by other graduate students or colleagues.
  6. Only include content that would actually be talked about, needed, or used.
  7. Make the slides more organized, cleaner, clearer, and more consistent.