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Topic Title: Trickery and deception by university lecturers
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Created On: 07 July 2012 12:42 PM
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 07 July 2012 12:42 PM
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Is it commonplace for university lecturers to present students with trick questions and misinformation? A few months ago a struggling undergrad approached my son for help with one of his assignments. He was given a graph of various measurements made on a single phase AC capacitor start induction motor and he had to comment on them. My son asked the student where he had obtained the graph from, and whether the data came from an experiment he had carried out himself, after noticing that there were two errors on it. The first was a highly out of range value for efficiency and the second was a power factor greater than unity. The reply was that the same graph was given to all the students by the course lecturer. My son pointed out the errors on the graph in his commentary which resulted in the student getting full marks for the assignment.

The student's lecture notes did not contain sufficient material which would have enabled him to have identified the errors on the graph. One does not know that something is bogus until they know what the genuine item looks like. The only way for students to know what genuine values for the measurements are would be to find them in material outside of that given in the lectures. My son has wondered whether the purpose of the assignment is actually a test to identify which students make the effort to find out stuff outside of the lectures and which students are happy to work with the material which they are given by the lecturer.

Another student presented my son with an assignment about a common emitter amplifier that had an unusual biasing point. He is aware that there are many instances where a biasing point other than half Vcc is used such as for low noise or high efficiency, but for a 1st year undergrad assignment he wondered whether something sneaky was happening to catch out the unwary.

I had a primary school teacher who used to frequently make deliberate mistakes to see who was alert and who wasn't. I don't think this practice is allowed under the National Curriculum nowadays.
 25 July 2012 02:01 PM
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Obviously it is very difficult to be sure without knowing the particular university/lecturer/course involved, but from my experience of university (I am a current undergraduate) this assumes a great deal more caring and preparation on the lecturers part than is common. The experience of myself and may friends at other universities is that the university doesn't care how much time you spend studying, or how hard you work, as long as the right things get handed in and you pass your exams.
It seems more likely that the bad graph was either an accident, or the lecturer just didn't realise the appropriate information wasn't in the notes. Lecturers often forget that students have much less experience than them, and just take it for granted that students will know certain things (even if they've never been taught them).
The odd bias point was probably straight out of a set of exercises from a different text book to the one usually used on the course, which may well have gone into more detail on bias points.
It would take a far more committed lecturer than most to try any tricks.
 25 July 2012 06:18 PM
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As with all professions there will be a small percentage who are not up to the required standard. However, in my experience tutors are human and make mistakes occasionally as do we all. As the same tutor generally marks the work and a second tutor second marks it such mistakes are then generally picked up and corrected.

Often we find that there is not always enough information in the assignment to work out the correct solution and some outside study is required, and the higher we go up the education level the more this becomes the case. I see no issue with spotting a mistake and then raising an issue about it, and in fact that is a very valuable skill to have, and which your son obviously has, and which came from someone else's mistake. Sometimes it is good to see the positive in a persons ability to spot and correct a mistake than it is to see the negative in a person who makes a mistake. Of course not always because sometimes, as you suggest, it may not be a genuine mistake.

 04 August 2012 06:19 PM
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University Lecturers should recognise that student fees now contribute towards 100% of their salaries and up keep of the buildings. Therefore students should be regarded as paying customers similar to customers booking into hotels.

Playing around with trick questions just adds to the stress of worry about cost of tuition fees, accomodation and food.

I'm afraid some lecturers can be a couple of equations short of a solution when it comes to understanding the real world.

Edited: 10 August 2012 at 04:57 PM by mbirdi
 05 August 2012 04:59 PM
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I should add that Universities involved in research activities would receive funding through private enterprise as well as tuition fees. So if students fail to secure exam passes to proceed to the next year, Univertities would lose £9000 per student in fees due to drop outs. Thisi could impact on lecturers jobs or the research side will start having to find cure for cancer etc to receive more funding to compensate for loss of tuition fees.

Edited: 10 August 2012 at 04:56 PM by mbirdi

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