Is it standard practice for universities to have completely self taught portions of a course? For example, a statistics course that is said to teach R (among other things) and then simply quizzes over R documentation without devoting class time to R or coding concepts.

I'd love to hear others' thoughts.

  • Lots of reflexive downvotes on this post, but this is a new contributor and it's not at all clear to me which guideline their question violates. (It touches on some matters of opinion, but so does any "Is this appropriate?"-type question, and there are plenty of high-scoring examples of those here.) Please explain how this question can be improved or suggest an edit rather than discouraging newcomers from participating. – Max Mar 9 at 7:21
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    @Max It's clear the asker has made up their mind already. So it is not a question. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 9 at 8:07
  • Introducing new concepts during a quiz or another assessment is fine. However, it should not be a surprise. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 9 at 8:08
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    I think it's likely the intention behind the question is "What would be the appropriate response to this situation?" rather than a simple yes/no validation of the OP's point of view. I agree that as written the question doesn't reflect this answerability, but we could suggest edits instead of starting with the assumption that the question can't be salvaged. – Max Mar 9 at 8:10
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    @Max Nobody is stopping you. Feel free to suggest edits. – Roland Mar 9 at 8:13

I hope it is standard practice to require some initiative of students. The "topics" of a course are about learning, not teaching. There are a lot of techniques by which students learn that don't, for example, require explicit instruction - especially lecture.

On the other hand, the expectations need to be clear. If the instructor "teaches" R by pointing to the documentation and then requiring its use, that may well be appropriate. I would hope that they answer questions from students about it, however.

My mantra in teaching was always that what the students did to learn was more important than whatever it was that I did. I had to "set the conditions" in which learning would most likely occur, but not everything that the student learned need to come from my pen or mouth.

Learning how to learn is probably the most important lesson taught at university. Learning how to listen should be a skill already learned that needn't, necessarily, have further reinforcement.

  • My numeric methods class (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forman_S._Acton) the class was on algorithms and issues, and we were assumed to pick up the 6 or 8 different languages used in the assignments. A good way to get a reasonable exposure to a bunch of different languages. – Jon Custer Mar 9 at 18:00

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