50 per cent

by John Q on April 28, 2004

One of the most pleasant aspects of being a Research Fellow is guest lectures. I give guest lectures in a number of different courses, ranging over several faculties and sometimes different universities. This gives me all the things I like about teaching, including (since a change is as good as a holiday) generally attentive audiences, and a chance to present material that’s not the standard textbook, but not new or rigorous enough to justify an academic seminar. On the other hand, all the unpleasant stuff – booking rooms, litigious students complaining about their grades, administrators trying to promote customer-centric shareholder value in a dynamic enterprising university, and so on – is taken care of for me.

I tend to do most of my guest lectures around mid-semester, since this is what fits the standard course structure best, and I’ve got quite a heavy load (by my very relaxed standards) this week. I’m just between lectures, then rushing off to a seminar in town[1], but I thought I’d pass on the reaction to my lecture today on the economics of higher education.

I started with the human capital and screening theories. I’m a violent partisan of human capital theory and opponent of screening theory, and didn’t try to hide this, but my success rate in convincing the students was, based on a small sample, only 50 per cent.

One student came up to me at the end and said “Thank you. I learned a lot”. Another came up to the lecturer responsible for the course and asked “Will this be on the exam?”.

fn1. For any Queensland readers who might be interested, it’s The US-Australia free trade agreement: folly or our future? at a meeting of the Australian Institute for International Relations from 6-7.30pm, April 28 at 46 George Street, Brisbane. For details, contact Colin Kennard (telephone 3371 2454, email c.kennard@uq.edu.au).



Simstim 04.28.04 at 10:14 am

Ah, “Is this in the exam?”, a phrase I grew to hate. You patiently explain to them the possibility that having an understanding of the whole might help in the understanding of the parts, but still they persist in thinking they can cherry-pick their way to a good mark in a course in social theory.


Bill Tozier 04.28.04 at 1:07 pm

While I am always striving to be friendly and helpful (and get reviews to match), I also have a reputation for laughing loudly and embarrassingly into the faces of students who ask “Will this be on the exam?” Since I tend toward the annoyingly Socratic, I also call out to the rest of the class, “Anybody? You think this will be on the exam?”


t 04.29.04 at 1:13 am

my approach is to grin broadly and say, “it will now!”

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