Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Talking About Your Research.. in class

Today in Scientopia, I discuss the phenomenon in which some professors are praised by their undergraduate students for talking about their (the professor's) research in class, whereas others are criticized for the same thing. In the latter case, mention of research in a class may be seen as proof that the professor only cares about research.

Should we talk about our research in class, and if so, how can we do it well?

11 comments:

A.M.M. said...

As a final year undergraduate, I found when it came to choose my project I had no idea what any of my prospective supervisors actually did. A short 5 minute introduction into your research area at the start of a lecture course would be very helpful to give an idea of the overview of current development in science.

Also, listening to anyone who is passionate about something is always interesting, so long as I have sufficient enough knowledge to understand. So if relevant to a lecture course then do describe your own research as examples! Also, personal experience when doing experiments is always useful (like tips and tricks which are left out from methods in papers).

Anonymous said...

During my undergrad my profs and lecturers all did that and it gets more routine as the classes became more advanced so I don't really see a problem in it. In addition, there's nothing better than listening to someone talk about things that they know very well about...their research!

pranusha said...

It depends on the mind set of professor and explanation given by the graduate.

ABT said...

I'm in the social sciences, so this may not be true for those who aren't... but I think that a lot of whether we "should" or not depends on what our research is and what the class is. I do qualitative work on gender and sexuality that is very relevant to the lives of students. I definitely talk about my work in courses that explicitly deal with that, but I don't talk about it in my 101 course unless students ask me what my work is on. I have in-class activities that use my research to teach students about some of the complexities of gender and sexuality, which are more fun than a lecture and involve the students with the work, instead of them thinking I only care about research.

The short answer: If your topic is one students can relate to or find interesting in the context of the course, go for it. But do more with it than just lecture or mentioning it every day class meets - engage the students in active learning. :)

Dr. Rural said...

It depends on whether your research is relevant to the course and how much you talk about it. If a history professor is an expert on the important revolutionary-era physician Dr. Benjamin Rush and tosses a lecture about him into their general U.S. survey, that's fine. If he or she spends six weeks of a semester that is supposed to cover everything from1492 to 1865 on him, then that is wasting the students' time.

Anonymous said...

As an undergraduate student I liked when my teachers (and even TA's) talked about their work. It makes them seem more human and real. Also, I feel like it could help in the graduate school application process. It is difficult to know what you want to spend your graduate career researching if you never even hear about research being done. Caution should be used to not bog down the poor student with complicated details and complex terms. This all being said, I also believe that being a good (or bad) teacher is not related to talking (or not talking) about research. Good teachers are good teachers and bad teachers are bad teachers regardless of research.

Anonymous said...

In a lower division class I always mention my research on the first day and how the class leads to working in my field, what class to take next and so on. It gives some students a sense of who I am, others could not care less but are happy for less lecture on day one.

in more advanced classes I explain how what we are doing is like stuff I do (whenever that is true). Again, no one seems to mind and are actually happy to them come see me for more info.

As in everything, balance is important!

A.M.M. said...

^^
Above comments I would agree with. Indeed some lectures are just good and some bad (and some improve with experience I'm sure)

Dr. Rural's point is very poignant and very clearly the way not to do it (even though I'm sure many have sat through courses like that).
Unless you actually want to hijack that line of research, that much detail is probably irrelevant and outdated by the time of graduation.

Although (hopefully) that is a minority case and normally talking about research is great.

clay said...

While I actually love hearing about professors' research ambitions, I think this should be kept to a minimum in a class setting, where the professor has institutional power and students have an institutional obligation to obey.

Clearly, professors shouldn't discuss their personal lives with students. While their research work is clearly educational and motivating and potentially class related, it's also about their personal careers and ambitions.

Nick Thomas said...

I have rarely mentioned it over the years, but if fits into a slice of gen chem I might.

Emily said...

As a student, I appreciate hearing about a professor's work and reading their papers if it's relevant to the topic of the course. However, I had a professor assign as homework a series of letters from a dispute between himself, a prominent reviewer, and an editor, which he also read out loud during class complete with self-congratulations for particularly clever comments. He claimed this was supposed to teach us how academia "really works," but even though I intend to become an SP myself, I don't think this was an appropriate way to do it. I ended up dropping this professor's class. Anyone else have an experience like this?