I’ve got a question for all sorts of different scientists. What kind of skills do undergrad science/technology/engineering/math majors need in order to survive and thrive?
If you’re a student, I’ve got some bad news for you. When you’re not around, professors have a tendency to rant about the stuff you don’t know how to do. Things like coming to class and taking notes and getting information from a book and starting homework assignments early. And, yes, I want to rant sometimes, too, especially when I’m answering complicated questions five minutes before an assignment is due. But I don’t remember ever learning any of them. I figured out how to schedule time for homework from experience – when I guessed too little time, I paid the price, and when I guessed too much time, I… well, I don’t quite remember, but it probably involved pizza and a frisbee. I didn’t really learn to read for information until grad school. And note-taking – I think I’ve gotten worse through time.
So is there any way to teach this stuff? And is it really what’s important for students to learn?
I don’t remember learning study skills, but I remember other parts of becoming a scientist. Walking home from a field trip with my mind buzzing. (And not because I was being chased by a cloud of mosquitoes, though that happened a few times, too.) Coming out of class with more questions than answers. Getting bad data, and fixing the equipment, and trying again. Becoming convinced that my first idea about my PhD rocks was totally wrong, and that I needed to re-think everything.
Curiosity. Creativity. The ability to deal constructively with frustration. The willingness to accept that one’s ideas are wrong sometimes. Those are the skills I would rather be teaching.
But maybe taking notes is more important for survival, at least immediately. And I have no idea how to teach that.