Teaching as a Grad Student: Logic End of Semester

Posted on May 23, 2017 by

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This is the 5th post in this series, and the third about my experience teaching for the first time (see parts one, and two).

As of a couple of weeks ago, I finally managed to submit the final marks for the Logic I course I had been teaching, marking the end of my responsibilities for that course. I must say I’m relieved. Teaching (that course) for the first time was stressful and time consuming. It did get easier as the semester progressed, though it was taking up an inordinate amount of my time right up to the end.

In this post I’m just going make make some general observations and suggestions looking back on the semester as a whole, but for those who are interested Richard Zach and I are also working on analyzing some quantitative and qualitative data about the effectiveness of the partially flipped approach I tried. Updates later this summer.

The first thing I want to mention has to do with technology in the classroom. As I think I had mentioned before, due to the size and layout (flat) of the room, it was necessary to use a microphone to make myself heard at the back. This was fine. Using a wireless clip-on mic shouldn’t hinder your teaching, it just makes you louder (or more uniformly loud). Unless something goes wrong. Which it will.

A few times during the semester, I turned up only to find that none of the mics were working. On two of those occasions the tech person for the building was able to get the sound up and running fairly quickly. Since I was in the habit of arriving 5-10 early anyway (lots of fiddly tech), I only lost a few minutes of class time. On a third occasion however, there was apparently nothing to be done. Luckily it was a group-work day, so I had only planned to talk for about 10min at the beginning of class and a few more at the end. Nevertheless, I was pretty hoarse after basically shouting for 8-10 min.

The mic issues weren’t the only technological problems I ran into, but were the most common. And to be clear here, I’m not trying to call anyone out for this, things went smoothly most of the time. The point is just that, if you’re relying on technology for your class, get there early to make sure things are working properly, and have a backup plan for when their not. (Much to the amusement and/or terror of my students,I found myself standing on a table with a white board at one point.)

On a different note, one thing I wish I had done is to be more realistic with my planning. Sometimes it’s just going to possible to finish grading that pile of homeworks in under a week. More generally, if I teach the class again I’ll make adjustments both to the homework assignments themselves to make marking a bit quicker, and adjust the timing of the homework assignments and tests to allow for as much flexibility as possible.

On a more positive note, although I probably should have gone a bit quicker at the beginning of the course, and a bit slower at the end, overall my planning of the course was on target. I got through all of the material I needed to without having to pack a bunch of difficult material into the last couple of weeks. I even had time for a metatheory day, as well as some planned tangents about the history of logic and mathematics, though I found the latter useful in motivating some of the peculiar ways we do things in logic.

At the end of the day, I think the class went fairly well, so I’ll leave my fellow teaching neophytes with the following advice.

  • Ask for help and advice from anyone you thing might be helpful.
  • Don’t expect everything to be perfect, or go smoothly all the time. It won’t (be).
  • Finally, remember, everything takes longer than it takes.