Monday, October 03, 2011

Evaluation of Teaching of a More Specific Kind

As you may or may not recall, I have taken a course at the university every semester since the spring of 2008. In fact, this is how I got the job that I have now; my current boss was my professor. Learning new things is good.

This semester I'm taking a graduate-level operations research class that could not possibly go any slower. It has taken us nearly half a semester to do less than a math department would cover in about a week and a half. To undergraduates.

Today we had the first exam. The professor started class over an hour early so that we would have 2.5 hours for the exam. I finished in under 90 minutes -- even after checking my work.

First let me say a few things about this class:
  1. Out of every class that I have taken at this university, this professor is one of the best lecturers that I have seen. Even handicapping herself with the publishers awful PowerPoints, she still delivers clear, dynamic, interesting lectures. The only reason that I use the textbook is to locate the homework problems. Her lectures are so masterful that I obtain full comprehension of the material from half-listening to them while I do my Real Job on my laptop.

  2. It is not the professor's fault that the class goes stupid-slow. This is a department-controlled course for the first-year graduate students in operations research.
Had you given me one of those professor-rating bubble sheets with the 5-point lickert scale before today, I would have given her straight 5s (assuming 5 is the good end of the scale).

And then I saw the exam.

It was an OK exam but not a wonderful exam.

First off, it was typed in Microsoft Word with no regard at all for typesetting the equations. So you would see things like 5x1 + 6x2 instead of 5x1 + 6x2. Which, while not a big deal, makes the math harder to read. Also, there was no reasonable alignment of equations in systems of equations.

And then there were many, many problems in which the set-up of the problem was given on the bottom 1.5 inches of the page and all the questions about the situation were on the next page. I hate having to flip back and forth. A few well-placed pagebreaks would have fixed that.

But the worst were the sloppily written "choose the best answer" multiple choice questions and true-false questions. I know that I'm going to get a bunch of those wrong from reading them like a mathematician. The one that bugs me the most was something of the form "You need this to interpret that." You need it for a full, meaningful, useful interpretation, but you can say a little bit without it. You could argue it either way.

Any bets on how long it will take for the exam to be graded?