Research, Dev, Share

An Effect of instructors/lecturers

Posted in Learning by Khang Vo on January 4, 2010

I intended to write this blog long time ago, especially the time I went to RMIT Melbourne.

A few hours ago, I read the blog of Ngon Pham, and I decided to write about the effects of instructors/lecturers to students’ mind, both good and bad effects.

To start, I want to tell some of my experience when I learnt in Melbourne.

At the beginning of every courses, the lecturers come and say: “I and you will learn together, I know something, but do not know many things, you will know and may have more experience than me so please teach me if you can”. What comes to my mind first is that it is a joke, right? how can those lecturers/professors with a lot of years of experience may not have something in the course/research interest that students know but they do not know. They are not joking at all when we went over the courses. They are in research for long time and they lacked industry skills/knowledge and they actually learnt it from students, it is not just small correction, it may be the whole lesson. Even some of them can learn business lessons from IT students. The best thing I see is that for unsolved problems (many of them in Intelligent System:) ), the idea of professors sometimes is not better than students. It proved and reminded me one thing: “You could never stop learning”.  (thanks to all lecturers that teach me in RMIT Melbourne)

The story I tell just shows one of the lesson. It is an obvious one. But the underlying lesson is that “Students must be strongly encouraged to argue and to teach instructors/lecturers back”. For every kinds of classes/lessons, for every kinds of instructors, there will still be some areas the instructors do not know/understand best. Here are some of my advices:

For Students:

It is really good if you have the excellent instructors. But please keep in mind that it has its own bad effects. You will become passive very soon. You all think that whatever the instructors give to you must be right, well-tested over time. I see many students do not dare to challenge their instructors’ ideas simply because instructors are too excellent that every arguments they try fail. If you do not want to argue any more, you will become robot really quick. Trust me, robot will not have high position in this quickly changing society. Asking for not understanding is not enough, challenging and arguing again is much better.

If you do not have good instructors or even bad ones, should not be disappointed. You can see it as a chance for you to self-study and argue. You can HELP to make them better, but in many cases, it is an art and depends on instructors’ mind. Some are not so opened and you must have the way to suggest your idea/ help instructors.

For instructors:

The good way for instructors to think when students argued is that “Students are helping me for free, I do not lose anything”. Another thing is that in a class, there will be 30 (or 200, depends on the university), and everybody knows that 30 CPUs working parallel can compete with 1 super computer in terms of data storage and processing. So, in many cases, their argument will become right. Open your minds and learn it, it may become a novel approach for research or your works. You also should open your minds wider and encourage students more to argue and do not make students think you are too strong or too excellent. No students will try to argue when they know their opponents are too excellent and 99% of argument, they may get wrong. It may be really strange at first but it may become excellent when you get it.

Yeah, to be honest, I know that Vietnamese lecturers have many difficulties, and I do not want to open a big discussion about whether we should understand them, whether we should not require them a lot. Ok, I know, but I try to HELP them become better. It is good for them and for students.

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5 Responses

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  1. Khang Vo said, on January 8, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Yeah, I agreed with your last point. Just to add more, imo, the best teacher is the one who have good knowledge, open mind, can make students really passionate, open students’ vision

  2. Buu Nguyen said, on January 8, 2010 at 6:15 am

    Okay, so we’re on the same page that knowledgeable lecturers are not harmful but the mediocre or closed-minded ones are. That’s good, because the tone of your original post would make mediocre, yet “open-minded” (what else can they do anyway?), teachers happy.

    And yes, students (like everyone else) should always think for themselves and look at all things with a critical eyes.

    And another angle you may have not thought about: sometimes the best teacher is the person who makes you know how stupid you are because s/he is able to show you the world beyond whatever things you already know or imagine. I am lucky to have met some people in my life who make me realize how stupid I am. Because that is when I know I need to learn hard.

  3. Khang Vo said, on January 8, 2010 at 5:23 am

    @Buu:
    No, I do not favor students to have less competent lecturers at all. My idea is only want to change students’ mind in case they have less competent lecturers. It will not be an excuse at all for them to be not excellent or lazy if they have not good lecturers. I heard many students’complain about bad lecturers and they just give up.

    It will be so lucky if students can learn from excellent lecturers but students should always be aware that not everybody will be true at all times and listen as a robot. Students should always open their minds, always suspect and challenge whatever they are taught. I also heard from many students that “This is absolutely right because their lecturers say so from his experience”. Understand the idea, challenge it in many different environments and conditions until it is absolutely right is what I usually did.

    Inadequate knowledge is also ambiguous term. Generally, it is true that academic lecturer lack industry experience and industry lecturer lack academic experience. So, it is acceptable that lecturers lack some knowledge but be open-minded

  4. Buu Nguyen said, on January 8, 2010 at 4:44 am

    I agree with the spirit of the article, i.e. teachers, no matter how excellent, should approach things with an open-mind and seek for opportunities to learn from everyone, including their students. (I would think excellent lecturers are excellent in the first place because they possess this attitude – if not, maybe they just think they are excellent while they’re really not.)

    However, there are sentences in this post that look to me like you think students are made passive by excellent lecturers and that students should better have less competent lecturers instead. I think different. I think if I have to make a choice between learning with a good lecturer (who surely wins most if not all arguments) and a mediocre one (who has no clue thus can’t hardly win any argument), I’m sure I’ll pick the former. I’d rather sit still & learn from that excellent lecturer than argue with the mediocre one. Experience has shown me that it benefits me nothing arguing with stupid people, but I can still learn a lot of hearing from outstanding teachers. Also in my experience, lecturers who come to the class with inadequate knowledge about the subject matter and attempt to have students look for all the answers themselves (using the “learning together” spirit as an excuse) always leave a bad taste in my mouth.

    That being said, it’s best to have lecturers who are both competent and open-minded. That’s what you & I seem to agree on.

  5. Huy Zing said, on January 6, 2010 at 2:11 am

    Khang, right on!
    You’re absolutely right.
    I totally agree with that philosophy.

    When I taught at RMIT, I preferred for a student to tell me I’m wrong in front of everyone than the alternative: me going out, merrily thinking and teaching wrong things.

    Correctness >> safety from embarrassment.

    And also, like you said in another post, teaching is a learning tool. If I teach and I’m not learning from it, then I easily get bored 🙂

    Same in the professional sphere. Tell your boss/manager when he’s wrong. I love it when people teach me, whether that’s a student or subordinate.


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