Sunday, March 30, 2008

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The purpose of life

I asked my students to think about the following essay question, "What is the purpose of life". This is one of the most important questions anybody can ask. If whatever we do is destroyed in the end and there is nothing after we die, then why do anything?

Some people will come up with superficial answers like "we need to have fun" or "we need to achieve our personal goals". But this question requires an answer that has deeper philosophical insight. I used this question because,

1. For students to be successful, they need to go beyond superficial answers. This means that they need to read "difficult books" (like books of philosophy), understand them and explain the content in their own word

2. Ultimately, students need to develop a personal opinion. Getting an education is more than simply getting a piece of paper. It means that somebody has matured. He or she must have spent their time wrestling with meaningful and life-changing questions and come out victorious.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

My students' blogs

Well, I started linking all my students' blogs to this one. Generally, they are okay. One or two are a bit strange but the idea of this blog is to start expressing yourself in English. I just hope that when the class finishes, you will continue blogging. Those students whose blogs are not here, they have not submitted their blog or the information they gave was wrong / badly written

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

24 January 2008

I started discussing writing styles. In some cases, people rely too much on examples whereas, ideally, they should state the rule first. For example,

"Third world countries have a corruption problem, look at Indonesia and Bangladesh"

The problem is that these examples do not allow you to generalize to every third world country. You can improve the sentence by saying

"Some third world countries, like Indonesia and Bangladesh, have a corruption problem"

Although slightly better, it does not tell us much about the nature of corruption. In other words, it is not very precise. To improve this, I can say,

"Corruption exists when government officials take advantage of their position to get some kind of payment from ordinary people. Very often, corruption is linked with a high degree of bureaucracy so that - to get things done - people have little choice but to pay a bribe. Although corruption happens everywhere, some third world countries (like Indonesia and Bangladesh) are notorious for their level of corruption."

As can be seen, writing well is not difficult however one cannot afford to be lazy. One has to define words, illustrate them and remove any ambiguity from your statement.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

First class UCS1163

I had my first class today. We went to Annex 70A and found it was occupied. We then ended up in my office. I found out at 4pm that another 15 students will join my class.....35 and counting. I see a lot of potential in my students but - of course - the challenge is to get them to overcome their shyness...... I hope that happens soon. On the way home, I decided to confront the problem by getting them to reflect on the fear of speaking.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Tips on remembering information

As I said, every bit of information enters your working memory. You can only access it if you can "transfer" it to your Long Term Memory. So how to do that?

1. Read textbook / notes / articles BEFORE you go to class. That allows you to better undertsand what is being said in class.

2. Write your own notes - this is very important as it forces you to use different senses and really helps to transfer information to your LTM

3. Draw mind-maps to understand the link between ideas in class. Mind maps are one of the most powerful tools to learn and you can find lots of information about them on the Net

4. Recite information regularly. The combination of reading before going to class, writing during class and reciting after class really helps settle information in your LTM.

5. If your know that your exam is going to be based on essays, practice writing essays. Take a topic and write the essay with all your notes by your side. That helps you organize your ideas. Do that a few times, and you will be ready to score As without trouble

6. Do all of this regularly throughout the semester and you won't have to sweat for the finals. Having taught thousands of students over the years, I have learnt one thing. Students do not score because they are particularly intelligent (although that helps!) but, they score because they start studying early and they put in enough time to get the job done. If student A studies 1 h everyday and student B studies 3 h every day, guess who is going to score? No surprise right?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tips on being successful at MSU (Part 2)

To study successfully, you need to understand how your memory works. In practice, your memory is divided into three parts:

1. Your sensory register (normally, inputs stays there for less than 1 second)

2. Your working memory (normally stays there for a few seconds)

3. Your long-term memory (normally stays there for ever)

To be able to use information during your final exam, it has to be stored in the long-term memory. That means that you need to see the information often enough for it to enter your long-term memory. Here are two common scenarios

1. Student A likes to study last minute. What that means is that - when revising for the final exams - all the information is going into his working memory but not into his long-term memory. He may remember some of it, but not enough to score.

2. Student B studies regularly. That means paying attention in class, reading the textbook before and after class, writing lots of notes, surfing the internet for additional information and so forth. Because you are "seeing" the same information regularly, it is gradually transferred from the working memory to the long-term memory. That means that when the final exams come, all of it is easy accessible and you can score As.

When of the biggest misunderstandings about studying is that most people assume that some people are "smarter" than others. Although that is true, the difference in intelligence between people is not that important. What it comes down to is:

1. Some people have SMART goals, others do not

2. People with SMART goals tend to manage their time effectively. They work more and do things earlier whereas other people simply do things last minute

3. Students who study early and on a regular basis score better results because the information they get during the course is transferred into their long-term memory. It is accessible during exam time. People who study last-minute only transfer the information to the working memory. During the exam time, it is often "not there".

There are various tricks to help you remember information better and help the critical transfer of information into your long-term memory. Surf the net to find out or come and talk to me.