Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dance 100 billion stars

If you select the paper work type of lectures, you can limit number of students in your class and you will get a teaching assistant.

I was discussing the undergraduate course I would be teaching next semester with my head of group over email. The basic idea of the lecture series was to teach an introductory physics course in English, available to all students enrolled in the university. However, there were options concerning the structure of the course that I was struggling to understand, having not gone through the Japanese higher education system myself. I wrote back:

Could you please explain what a "paper work type of lecture" is?

My best guess at present was that there was a course type that shunned written material and presented information through interpretive dance. I wondered if I could get a student to leap through a wall in a demonstration for quantum mechanics. A few minutes later, I got my answer:

"Paper work type of lecture" means that in this lecture a professor spends his class time to make training of student's ability to write their papers, presentations or something.

.... whereas in the other type of lecture, the professor just sets up a game of hangman and doesn't bother with anything educational? This seemed implausible. I walked next door to see if I could extract a more complete explanation but failed. The joys of a language barrier!

Just when I'd resigned myself to showing my class how to play 'Portal' and leaving it at that, my head of group came back with a more complete explanation. It turned out that there two types of courses at Hokkaido University; the ones I would refer to as 'core' and were needed to graduate in a particular field and others that were more general interest and could be taken by students in any discipline. This second category (which was the one to which my course would belong) was again broken into two variations: courses where the professor stood at the front and delivered material to a passive class and another with a workshop competent that involved a level of audience participation. The course I had proposed included presentations from the students on different scientific topics and would therefore belong in this workshop or "paper work" type lecture.

So no computer games but no jumping through solid walls either. Perhaps it is for the best.

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