« Women in computing: what I learned so far | Main | Summer projects »

April 22, 2009



I think it's quite rare for people to deliberately show off by "strutting". After all, put yourself in the position of a student with previous experience:

You have previous experience that tells you that method X is the best way to do something and then in class one day a lecturer who's opinion you respect tells the class that method Y is the correct way to do it.

You need to know whether the lecturer is teaching method Y for didactic reasons or whether there is some good reason for choosing to use method Y over method X in real life.

If someone asks "Isn't it more elegant to do X?" they are actually saying "Previous experience tells me that doing X is correct, but I'm not confident enough in that to state it as a fact and ask you for an explanation as to why we are doing Y instead." It's basically a non-committal way of asking for an explanation about some inconsistency between previous experience and what we are being taught.

It makes sense that the students with experience in a subject will have questions when trying to integrate their experiences with what they are being taught.

It's not easy to ask questions in class. It certainly doesn't endear you to the other students. Experience can often be a distinct disadvantage: If you ask questions you risk alienating yourself from the other students and that makes learning more difficult since you have no friends to ask for help; if you don't ask questions you end up with a very inconsistent understanding of the subject.

meep :)


Thanks for your thoughts, Simba - good to have another point of view. Perhaps the problem is that lectures are an awkward format for this type of learning. It's hard to have a genuine communication channel because it is basically a broadcast medium. You really want a situation where everyone can ask questions (probably in a smaller class or during discussion) so no one feels they are risking something by asking questions.
I *hope* I can tell the difference between strutting and genuine questions, and I try to answer everyone fairly. My concern was that the question/my answer interaction shouldn't put inexperienced people off. Very hard to get right.

The comments to this entry are closed.