Ineffectual Teachers

From: Dave Scott
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Date: 05 Oct 1996
Time: 05:02:51

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Annie wrote:

"I'm also curious to hear more about all those ineffectual teachers you had. What made them ineffectual and what on the other hand do you think makes an effectual teacher (Is effectual a word? Well you know what I mean.)?"

I couldn't possibly describe every bad teacher I've had without going over my modem time allotment. But one who sticks out in my mind because he is the worst instructor I've ever had in college is Glen Langdon, who tried to teach me about data compression last Spring. What made him horrible was his complete disconnection with the students. He is a real genius who has made many significant contributions to the field, but he couldn't teach Spock how to play "52 pick-up". The material was extremely difficult. All of the students were lost. He didn't care. Langdon just plodded on with his incomprehensible lectures despite the groans and snores from the students. I was able to read some of his evaluations for this course from previous years, and they unanimously pointed out the same problems with his lecture style. He didn't seem to know (or care) why he was standing at the front of a classroom with chalk marks on his back.

I can think of a couple other UCSC Computer Science professors who, while I often found the content of their lectures very interesting, their style left much to be desired. David Huffman (who invented "Huffman Code", the compression algorithm used in your modem) was once asked by a fellow student of mine if the professor could slow down every once in a while so that he could catch up on his notes, to which Huffman replied, "No." And Prof. Ira Pohl, who is a world-famous authority on programming languages, has a monotone voice that could make even the most contextually interesting lecture counteract four cups of espresso.

Dave

"...Yes, the lectures are optional. Graduating is also optional."

-- Professor Brian Quinn (physics)

p.s. Want to read some other great quote by actual UCSC professors? Then check out "http://www.cse.ucsc.edu:80/~sherrod/quotes.html".