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Well we know where we’re goin’ March 1, 2009

Posted by calvinus in Teaching.
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But we don’t know where we’ve been.

This seems to be becoming more and more the case these days. Some of the students I teach become so “institutionalised” inasmuch that they think only in terms of the subjects they are studying and only in terms of what they have to learn. Future tense. Any sense of connecting this with what has already been learned is implicit. It is not a conscious decision to relate current topics with skills already acquired. I spent an hour an a half trying to get my final years reconnect with this and realize what they are doing at a subconscious level. Add to this a lack of confidence to tackle subjects outwith their concept of what is their subject, we run the risk of graduating students that are not as rounded as they deserve to be.
Should scientists have to think about the philosophy and psychology behind what they are learning? I think so. Not too much, but there should be a small amount of teaching aimed at probing the fundamental meanings of the language and symbolism used. When is a measurement not a measurement? How does your concept of measurement bias your results? What is “truth” and “true” results in an experiment? This latter question is one I see more and more coming up. Our “average” fresher thinks that there is an absolute, true value that their experimental results must be close to. “What is the real value?” is a question I am often asked.

Good question. Come back at the end of your degree and tell me what you think then.

Where is this blog going? Who knows. The future is certain, give us time to work it out.

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