144 votes

How to stop hopping the learning chain and actually begin somewhere?

Dan's answer is very good, and I want to add one more point: Accept that on the first pass you will not be able to fully understand the topic. Appreciate that there are decades and sometimes ...
eykanal's user avatar
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100 votes
Accepted

Is asking your PhD supervisor a basic question considered inappropriate?

If your colleagues in the department—presumably also PhD students—don't understand the concept, either, it doesn't strike me that the question is truly "basic." That said, if your advisor is aware of ...
aeismail's user avatar
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87 votes
Accepted

Asking questions in class: how can I "exit" a Q&A when I haven't really understood?

The situation is complicated so there is no simple answer. Over time you and your instructor(s) will have to work out a modus vivendi. From my point of view as a teacher, I want you to try to continue ...
Ethan Bolker's user avatar
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74 votes
Accepted

How can I deal with being pressured by my department to pass students who failed?

Your department defers to you as the final authority on the student’s grade, and for a good reason: because you are the only person who sees the full picture of the student’s performance and the ...
Dan Romik's user avatar
  • 188k
71 votes

How should I reply to an email from a student who took a test and failed, and promises to do better?

Actually you need to do more than suggested by Wetenschaap, though that is good. It isn't enough to just encourage them if they have poor study habits. I learned that a lot of students reach ...
Buffy's user avatar
  • 357k
66 votes

Asking questions in class: how can I "exit" a Q&A when I haven't really understood?

I don't want the lecturer to feel like maybe they've done a poor job of explaining when perhaps I'm just not grokking an underlying principle. If you're not grokking an underlying principle, the ...
Wildcard's user avatar
  • 4,294
63 votes
Accepted

What are the benefits of an oral exam?

Pedagogical advantages: It is much easier to catch misunderstandings early and thus "rescue" an answer. After all, bad exam questions aren't that rare (bad as in: if the student has a very good ...
cbeleites unhappy with SX's user avatar
50 votes

How can I deal with being pressured by my department to pass students who failed?

Have you considered offering an Incomplete instead of immediately offering a pass or fail grade? This might be a compromise you could suggest which wouldn't automatically pass the student without the ...
ycartwhelen's user avatar
42 votes

Is asking your PhD supervisor a basic question considered inappropriate?

Consider the risk-reward tradeoff here. If you keep quiet and use the wrong interpretation of this "basic" concept, you risk spending the rest of your research time producing nonsense, because you ...
alephzero's user avatar
  • 4,252
38 votes

How do you study a graduate-level textbook that doesn't have any exercises?

(I'm in mathematics...) My advice is to not think in terms of "exercises", in the traditional sense of posing some sort of "challenge" which can allegedly be "responded to&...
paul garrett's user avatar
  • 88.1k
34 votes

How can I pass a statistics exam that overly relies on memorizing formulas?

In addition to @Buffy suggestions: A lot of formulas in statistics are variations on the same theme. If you understand the relationship between the formulas you can learn for each "block of ...
Maarten Buis's user avatar
  • 42.7k
30 votes

Asking questions in class: how can I "exit" a Q&A when I haven't really understood?

My impression is that you see only two ways to react to asking a question and not "getting" the answer: (a) give up, or (b) repeat the exact same question once again (you talk about "asking the same ...
xLeitix's user avatar
  • 135k
29 votes
Accepted

Do researchers study topics outside their field for fun?

Fundamentally, a researcher studying a different field "for fun" is in no other situation than anybody else studying "for fun". It's a hobby, just like reading, going to the theatre, or sports. Some ...
xLeitix's user avatar
  • 135k
29 votes

How do I improve my ability to learn?

As you describe what you do, it seems very passive. If that is the case, then that is the root of your problem. Reading is a spectator sport. Learning is an active sport. You don't learn to swim by ...
Buffy's user avatar
  • 357k
28 votes

What are the benefits of an oral exam?

Oral and written exams test largely different skill sets. Of course there is some overlap, but not that much. Some examples: In oral exams you can test the ability to explain things much easier than ...
Dirk's user avatar
  • 38.1k
28 votes

How to stop hopping the learning chain and actually begin somewhere?

If you are actually new to a topic then the papers on it are probably out of your reach. When I want to open a truly new topic I would start with the lowest level textbook I can get. Perhaps I find ...
Clumsy cat's user avatar
  • 6,916
28 votes

Discouraged by advisor to take courses, is there a way to navigate through this situation?

Audit the courses that you like, i.e., take them without receiving a grade/credit for it. You might not even need to formally audit courses, most professors will let you informally audit them. But as ...
NNN's user avatar
  • 469
27 votes

How to stop hopping the learning chain and actually begin somewhere?

Create something and learn in the process If I want to learn a new programming language or framework, maybe I'll do a quick tutorial but then I immediately have to find something useful and/or fun to ...
Sebastiaan van den Broek's user avatar
26 votes

Is it possible to do good research on a certain area through self-learning the state-of-the-art of the area?

At some point in a research career you will need to learn directly from papers. Even as a practical programmer, when I wanted the absolute state of the art in an area, I would read academic papers, ...
Patricia Shanahan's user avatar
26 votes
Accepted

Is solving all of the exercises in a textbook a good idea?

It depends enormously on your personal objectives, apart from your personal predilections. For example, if a significant goal is to advance your understanding of mathematics, then obsessing over ...
paul garrett's user avatar
  • 88.1k
25 votes
Accepted

Try exercises or look at the solutions for self-study

Some of the exercises are very hard. That is expected. But it depends on how deep you want your learning to be. If you are happy enough with a superficial understanding, then just read the solutions. ...
Buffy's user avatar
  • 357k
23 votes

How to stop hopping the learning chain and actually begin somewhere?

I totally experienced the same thing both in academia (MSEE) and work life, especially early on: Life is not an academic knowledge competition, so no need to feel inadequate. There will always be ...
smci's user avatar
  • 1,937
23 votes

How can I pass a statistics exam that overly relies on memorizing formulas?

One way to memorize a lot of things is to write each one on a separate index card and carry them about with you at all times. Perhaps write a name on one side and the formula on the other. Never leave ...
Buffy's user avatar
  • 357k
22 votes

How to self teach mathematics?

I recommend that you take a look at Brown, C. (2007). Differential equations: A modeling approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. It's targeted at social science undergraduates, so I think it ...
JRN's user avatar
  • 11.7k
20 votes

What are the benefits of an oral exam?

I wrote an answer based on my personal experiences, but here is another based entirely on the literature. From [1], well-designed oral exams can increase student success: Scores on the oral ...
ff524's user avatar
  • 109k
19 votes

Is asking your PhD supervisor a basic question considered inappropriate?

I was on both sides of the fence. As a PhD student, I asked my supervisor several times about concepts which were maybe obvious for people from that specific field, but not for a newcomer. Like you, ...
WoJ's user avatar
  • 8,220
17 votes

What are the benefits of an oral exam?

One detail I have not seen mentioned in the other excellent answers: oral exams can be especially beneficial in classes where students work on a significant group project. An individual oral exam is a ...
ff524's user avatar
  • 109k
17 votes

How do you study a graduate-level textbook that doesn't have any exercises?

I've found that writing up detailed notes on a topic I've been reading about is invaluable for exposing what I do and do not understand about a topic. It also sometimes has the side benefit of letting ...
cjs's user avatar
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