Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘methods

Article #11, April 9, 2005

“What kind of methods will I have to manipulate in HF?”

Once again you are asking a most interesting and to the point question.

Usually, my class is composed of all engineering disciplines and is basically a required course for industrial engineers in their third year.

Every time I ask the students: “Tell me, what 3 main methods you use in your discipline?” 

I enjoy contemplating the glazed looks on their eyes.

For them, one method to using in a discipline is logically a reasonable supposition because somehow they must have been applying some sort of a method anyhow.

Hearing that there may be more than one methods that they have been applying explicitly without realizing it propelled my university students into a state of shock and disbelief.

 If I asked them how they solved their problems their immediate reaction is: “Well, we locate the appropriate equation, we input the necessary data then we whip the calculator and get the response.”

Do they know before hand the magnitude and range of the reasonable answers?

Do they ever double check whether the answer is within the acceptable range for the specific domain of the problem? 

Do they make it a habit to at least attach a unit to their answer?

Do they double check whether the algebraic manipulation of the dimensions of the independent variables in the equation matches the dimension of the dependent variable?  Do they solve algebraically the equation before inputting data only in the last phase of the transformation?

The average graduate student has no recollection that his training induced him to apply methodically this process for applying algebra, considering the dimensionality of an equation or the range and domain of the problems at hand.

The average university student has barely been prompted to think about the taxonomy (classification scheme) of methods used in engineering and asked to locate the appropriate domain of methods that his course might require.

Every science is based on a set of taxonomies or classification schemes.

For example we are taught that mathematic is based on inductive and deductive reasoning, that it has several distinct branches like analytic, algebraic, numeric, geometric and not least probabilistic.

Every applied science has gone through the methodologies of experimenting, setting the protocol, collecting data, analyzing statistically the data and hopefully reaching a few practical results that the professionals in the disciplines could apply.

Fourth year engineering university graduates go through their final project with a set of inefficient experiments, each experiment being based on a unique independent variable or factor and probably a modicum of control variables, and they live happily ever after without knowing that there are courses that train you to design experiments in very efficient ways.  They graduate without being required to taking at least one course in designing cause and effect experiments where more than one factor and more than one dependent variable could be studied simultaneously for the more useful information on the interactions among the variables.  It does not matter how often I explain to them the various kind of variables through specific examples, the fact is their brain is not trained to look at problems from an experimental perspective.

Article #24, (June 11, 2005)

“Students’ feedback on my teaching method for the current semester”

After many unsuccessful attempts to generating students’ feedback on my teaching methods and how this course might affect their perspective and behavior in approaching the remaining core courses before graduation and in their career I decided to include two questions in the final exam that I expected would shed some insight.

The required question, which I told class two weeks ahead of the final exam that it will be part of the exam, directed the students to focus first on the diligent A and B students and then to target the C and D students in their teaching methods in case they might have to teach a course in Human Factors and the third part was to restructure the course materials and which chapters should have to be developed further. 

Now, any logical person would expect the students to have prepared detailed answers to these questions since it is an open book and open notes exam, but unfortunately, I didn’t have any shred of evidence that any student did prepare a written answer. 

You would also expect students to be lenient in teaching this course but their reaction was even harsher.

 Students required that drop quizzes be delivered on a weekly basis after students hand in a chapter summary, that case studies be debated in class, a few lab workshops and many more assignments. 

A student suggested attaching a CD copy of the course material so that they would not have to carry books.

They suggested that summarizing chapters as assignments might force students to read, a suggestion that I did try in a previous semester but was discouraged because the endeavor ended up with students heavily copying from one another and I carrying home heavy loads and wasting more time flipping through useless pages.

I think that frequent and consistent drop quizzes are an excellent tool although it will cost me dear time for grading and from teaching time.

Actually, I didn’t expect even the most diligent students to read the whole course materials. 

I provided hints and suggestions on the best way to assimilating the material that would help them navigate through the content of the course. 

I encouraged them to browse through the whole course contents and focus on the graphs, tables and figures and try to comprehend the subject matters by analyzing and using them as facts in their analyses.

May be you would have a better assessment of the students’ harsh requirements, if given the opportunity to teaching, after I expose the load they shouldered throughout the semester.

Besides the mid-term and final exams, each student had to submit two assignments, two lengthy lab projects; three extensive take home exams that covered most of the chapters, three quizzes for 45 minutes each, two presentations to class of graphs, tables and figures, reading revised articles that I assigned them and a take home exam on a research paper concerning hand tool design. 

Not a single student was exposed to a research paper before and it was a pretty tough awakening for the students planning for higher education. 

I think that the students lacked an appreciation of the time allocated to managing a class that prohibits many well meaning teaching plans. 

In many instances, I had to read in class the assignments and take home exams questions and provide directions because I noticed that the students tended to dig these assignments up from their folders before a long lapse of time. 

The time allocated for students’ presentation takes up more than a third of the teaching hour and fielding questions takes the best of the second third 

There are no lab credit hours for this course and still students believe that they can set aside free hours for doing lab projects necessary for assimilating this course.

The alternatives restructuring of the course materials did not differ much from mine.

The optional question for bonus points asked the students to select 3 topics of interest to them, provide catchy titles and explain in two paragraphs for each topic how it might apply and improve their careers. 

Although I have assigned to the students articles that I wrote as an introduction to the course materials only one student offered complete sentence titles; the rest just named the topics. 

It appears that their preferred topics were: risk and errors, designing interfaces, work environmental factors that might affect performance, human-computer interface and hand tool design. 

A couple students interested in medical technology engineering wanted more emphasis on the biology aspects of the body structure. 

Only one student mentioned the cognitive preference for this single course.

Many students signed petitions to re-include the elective course of “risk assessment and occupational safety and health” for the fall semester but the administration refused to consider these petitions two years in a row.

Why?  I still did not receive any feedback either written or verbal. 

It appears that the meaning of asking students to deliver petitions for any demand is less a matter for taking their cases seriously but to erect roadblocks and present a procedural façade to secure grants as a professional institution.

Actually, students’ apathy toward the effectiveness of the student council is strikingly telling.

I had to harangue my class to grab and snatch their rights by persistent pressure on the administration for the demands in their petitions.




July 2022

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