September 10, 2001ASEE chapter at UT Austin.
Dr.Patt started out by saying that there are three possible topics for his talk today:
He explains that as no audience
is alike, no outline of the talk can be made prior to meeting the crowd.
He tailors his lectures to the students he has in front of him. Dependent
on the knowledge and the input he gets from the audience he changes
The discussion started with
the audience asking for the explanation of the 7th commandment.
Dr.Patt sets out in his characteristic style and states that there
is no commandment, which reads "though shalt cover the material."
Too many teachers are preoccupied with how much material they should
cover. They are very ambitious and will try to squeeze lots of
material into a short period of time. However, Dr. Patt indicates
that it is far more important to ensure that your message gets across.
It is better to cover a small amount of material well, than a large
amount of material poorly.
The next question was about
the 9th commandment: What are those 3 little words? Those three little
words read: I don't know. Don't be afraid to say that you don't
know. Don't try to cover your lack of knowledge. You will
only propagate errors. Besides propagating errors you will loose
your credibility, as there is always somebody in the audience who will
In explanation of the 4th commandment, Dr. Patt states that
you can give students a lot of work. Students will do the work
as long as you make it interesting and not tedious. Love for the
topic and high grades do not necessarily go together. Make sure
your students learn and that they learn it well. In the end they will
value the learning experience more than the grade given to them.
Questions from the audience:
Dr. Patt was asked if he accounts for differences in knowledge. The example was given of a M.S. student and a Ph.D. student both taking the same class. It was posed that the Ph.D. student would have an unfair advantage. Should they be graded differently?
Dr. Patt answers with a firm
no. His counter question is: Where would it stop? Should we account
for morning people vs. evening people? Grading should be fair; goals
should be high but attainable.
Will you continue explaining a topic if only one student out of 50 does not get it? And how do you know everybody is getting it?
Dr. Patt answered that you
will never know if everybody understands what you are teaching.
Not unless you give pop-quizzes every 30 minutes. He feels he
can read the crowd and knows when eyes are glazing over. He agrees
that he can be fooled. Furthermore he states that it is imperative to
make clear that asking questions is okay. You will not get many questions
the first day, but showing your audience that no question is stupid
instills confidence and opens up communication.
How do you establish what the fundamentals are? What are fundamentals?
Dr. Patt said that of course
no such thing as universal fundamentals exists. They are subjective
and will be readjusted according to the situation.
Should we get rid of grading?
Dr. Yale Patt would instate
3 grades: A+, passing, and why did you bother to sign up.
Would you choose a person with five Bs or a person with one A+ and four C-?
Dr. Patt said that it depends
on the job. If talent is needed, then choose the A+ person. If
discipline is needed, choose the B person.
Why did you become a professor?
Dr. Patt likes to see the lights going on in student's eyes. He likes teaching and thinks it is a great job!