Daniel B. Weber
At the college level, the primary goal of the institution is for students to obtain a well-rounded education that prepares them for gainful employment and to contribute positively to society upon graduation. Traditional teaching methods work well by introducing students to a wide variety of subjects and by requiring increased focus on the student's major subject. By in large, the majority of universities focus on the undergraduate student body as should be the case, since this is what the workforce demands.
Graduate education shifts the emphasis from a cursory overview and understanding to a more in-depth study of subject matter that can potentially require significant research skills. At this level, the student is expected to perform at a higher level and work independently and creatively. Most colleges focus primarily on undergraduate level education, but a modest number of institutions have developed strong graduate research programs that feed the important information/technology pipeline to mainstream society. These leading programs are an integral part to the solution of many societal issues.
A number of teaching techniques can be effective and one important aspect of the undergraduate experience is the need for computer literacy. Web based learning/tools should be used when situations warrant. The main points I wish to follow during my college teaching experience include the following:
- Prepare students for a useful and satisfying career in meteorology and the Geosciences.
- To achieve (1), you must spur interest and motivation. The primary reason for failure among undergraduates is apathy or disinterest in the subject matter.
- Undergraduates need to be exposed to good studying habits. Short-term memorization is sometimes confused with understanding. Emphasis must be made on the comprehension of concepts and application to tangible examples.
- Expose the students to many different and useful aspects of the field of study. This is required to prepare future employees to changing industry workforce requirements.
- Provide the basics that will be used in the work place environment.
- Give breadth, in terms of subject matter, to non-majors.
- Encourage class participation, this will boost interest.
- Exams measure the effectiveness of the transfer of material from the teacher to the student as well as the students aptitude and dedication to the class material.
- Cramming cheats the student, it exercises short-term memory and dilutes comprehension.
- A significant portion of graduate education is associated with research. Masters students need to be exposed to sound research practices and allowed more freedom in their work near the end of their studies.
- Graduate students need to increase their level of knowledge above the undergraduate understanding. This is an important component and allows for creative and independent problem solving.
- Sound research skills include the preparation of the final report and publication in a reviewed journal. Technical writing should be incorporated into the class assignments whenever possible.
- Doctoral students need to master a number of skills and tools. Tools are an important part of any research endeavor and enable the student to solve problems independently.
- Nominal guidance should be provided the Ph.D. student during the research portion of the degree. Guidance on the course work is important in order for the student to be prepared for the desired topic.
- If possible the Ph.D. student should perform an overview of the intended topic and present and defend the dissertation topic to his committee.
- The ultimate goal of the Ph.D. experience is to conduct original independent work.