Teachers' Toolbox/Teaching skills to the students

Apart from the curriculum that needs to be covered during the lections, going to school hopefully also teaches more life-skills to the students. This chapter gives examples on how to do this.

Group Work edit

When working closely together as a group, students with students, student with a supervisor, or as a member of a team, you have to pay attention to a lot of things to make the cooperation work smoothly. Its of course not easy to say how you in your specific situation should behave, but here's some hints to help you on the way!

A list of good advice edit

  • Be prepared - its a waste of more than just your time if you are not prepared
  • Try to be quiet and let others have a chance to come with their opinion
  • Be inspired by others comments.
  • Try to make up your own mind about the issues, not just the opinion of the majority
  • E-mail/phone people if you cannot make it - it is very annoying not knowing why people don't show up etc, and keeping the others informed is the least you can do if you cannot make it.
  • Make a resume of the decision you have made at the meeting - especially about who is doing what and when it should be done!
  • When discussing in the group, make sure to hear the whole round - otherwise the work will be dominated by a couple of extroverts and the more silent will not have a word to say - and their contribution may be just the keyword you were missing.
  • Agree before you start, on the meeting hours and how to keep in touch - many groups end up divided because some are disappointed about the others not meeting at required times, while those who didn't show you for some reason had the impression it was optional to get there.
  • People usually acquire certain roles and some are good while others are tedious. Make sure the role of referee takes turns (the one who takes it is quite a hero, because its annoying to do it, but so nice to have it afterwards
  • Decide how you're going to make decisions -let the majority rule or discuss the issue until somebody gets their will ?
  • Discuss what your expectations are for the group work - and how you would evaluate it. Many problems come from broken expectations
  • Write down what you decide - its so good to get it written down and agree on the agenda for the coming time before you end the meeting. That way every body will have a well-known to do list and know what to present next time.
  • If you feel that something is wrong - even just a small thing - do talk about it now. the longer you wait the bigger the problem usually gets (I mean, haven't you tried this before...?). So get the air cleaned up early rather than late. A good starting sentence is: I have the experience/feeling that something could be a problem... and this is a hint to the others that such a potential problem is being discussed.
  • Though definite roles are not what we seek in a group work, some roles will appear. You should be conscious about them - and their presence is definitely needed - but you should all have a part in each role, though some take one or the other more frequently (especially during an exam or stressed situations)
    • Here are one set of roles. These are different and equally important roles for the completion of a project -and we all have parts of each of the roles in us:
      • The administrator (makes sure notes and logbooks are made, requires an analytical calmness)
      • The chairman (oversees the groupwork - do you keep the time schedule, contact with people outside the group, somebody who knows people and how to get the group working)
      • The entrepreneur (did you forget something in your plan, what other ways could you take to the solution... creativity rules and will try to make detours from any fixed plans)
      • The scientist (all the talk from the above sounds good, but is it relevant ? )

Feeling stuck? edit

All projects encounter problems (if we knew what we were doing it wouldn't be science would it ? but we get wiser and have to adjust our plans and get disappointed when our plans don't match expectations)

Generally a project will get a bit stuck between the different phases, if the whole group doesn't proceed to the next step (then some will continue popping up new ideas while others try to work focused - which is very distracting - but the ideas can on the other hand be worth some attention...). Once you have made the strategy plan, you will at some point get stuck when you need to revise it and take all the new things that has turned up into consideration - then its time to go for a new cycle of planning and a revised strategy to keep moving.

Typically you'll experience some of the following and the feeling will often spread and affect the others - that's when you have to intervene:

  • Loss of energy and participation (crossed arms, leaning back).
  • This is as good as it gets - the road from status quo is too diffuse and all options seem very laborious and complicated.
  • Why are we working on this particular problem - maybe many issues that need attention has popped up suddenly and you loose focus
  • To many balloons and ideas are around - it is difficult to find the focus and get moving
  • Lost trust in other team members -maybe they didnt meet their deadlines or do the job you expected them to. This often leads to negative comments while they are not around.
  • Subgroups and cliques form and fight each other.

Since you're in a team or a group you have chosen to join, you should fight the easy way of letting things continue this way, because it *will* escalate.

Good ways to easen up the situation is to:

  • Take a break, get food, carbohydrates and fresh air.
  • Explain how you feel, ask for the others impression and suggestions, once you have some suggestions to think about, maybe postpone the meeting until next day for a fresh start
  • Review you project plan and mindmaps - did you remember everything
  • Are people still too much in "the wrong" phase - if you're close to the deadline you should be working towards a well defined goal and not be sending up new balloons with ideas.
  • Keep a good todo list and strategy plan, so everyone knows what they should do and where the project is heading - and listen to the various opinions about the plan.
  • Discuss you goals and redefine them if necessary. Celebrate the progress or achievement of smaller goals to keep up the spirit - this can be as simple as going together for a cup of coffee.
  • Break up the roles people have aquired, which sometimes are oppressing some

Writing Reports/Papers/Thesis edit

There usually isnt much Zen over writing papers, reports and thesis. It's painful-late night-in-the-last-hour-before-deadline-work. Here's some hints to help you through the process.

First of all remember Occhams Razor The Necessary and the sufficient - do not write more than necessary. The more you add, the more you have to proof read and others have to evaluate it - it all takes time and it all takes much longer for every page you add. Brevity is essential!


Report writing edit

A report is what you hand in at the end of a course, after a smaller project etc. The following is some good advice on how to tackle it. The advice given for Thesis are of course also worth taking a look at -especially for longer reports

Thesis writing edit

A thesis is not just a report after a brief course, but a major work in your life documenting years of work and probably affecting the following years of work too. It does require some special care and attention

Writing articles edit

Writing scientific articles is an artform. Articles can to some extent be considered the fabric of science as we know it today - the documentation of your work and the only way people in the future can take advantage of your efforts and gained knowledge (and don't underestimate the power of a long publication list in your immediate future).

  • Plan the work on writing it - it takes time and effort!
  • Structure it - consider how to guide your reader through your work
  • The usual suspects - things you *always* end up discussing while writing.
    • Remember that definite expressions require definite data. Its often worth softening expressions such has 'this proves', 'beyond doubt' etc.
    • A figure is worth a thousands words - and if the figure is bad, it's a thousand confusing words. Keep it simple!
  • Examples - selected examples of some well written articles
    • please add :-)
  • Ideas - to spice up your article
    • please add:-)
  • Review - things to remember in the review process

Resources on the net edit

Making posters edit

Resources on the net edit

Making Oral Presentations edit

See under teachers' toolbox/Lecturing

The scientific method edit

Often a supervisor is teaching this by being there. The student sees how the senior does it and learns by looking. Couldn't there be a more focused way of doing this?

Project Management edit