Queues

/soapbox

Mildly irked by the general feedback. I don’t think people know what they’re asking for when it comes to OH queue times.

Process

When I approach someone in office hours, I have a process.

  1. [Discover] What’s your current approach?
    • Tells your their current progress, gives you a good idea of what they’re stuck on
    • Makes sure they know what they’re doing, can be easy to lose track of that
  2. [Spec] What information do you need to solve the problem? Can you point out where that information is in your code? If not, where can you introduce it?
    • Relate problem definition to their implementation
    • e.g. elevators and uk
  3. [Suggest] You’re on the right track! Have you considered doing blah to bleh?
    • Make sure they know what they haven’t tried and how to start trying it
  4. [Debug] Watch them as they implement it
    • Mostly a morale thing, not pedagogically useful in my opinion
  5. [Learn] Can you tell me what you were missing?
    • The point isn’t to solve the problem. The point is to learn how to solve it

Note the absence of verifying their solution or telling them the answer. Callout to those courses where the TAs had so little knowledge of the problems that they were pressured into just showing the students the solutions.

Problem

Now, my problem with all these demands for bounded queue times is this. You’re not going through the above process in 5 minutes. I’d be surprised if you could always go through it in 10.

The only step I can justifiably skip is [Debug], and I do this if the queue is going to hell. But otherwise, there is significant amount of learning happening in [Discover], [Spec] and [Learn].

I could just look at your code for 2 minutes and [Suggest] for the other 3. But what do you learn from that?

The alternative is to arbitrarily cut-off in the middle of a stage when the time limit is inevitably hit, and that’s equally garbage as far as options go.

If a question can be answered in two minutes, perhaps the question wasn’t worth asking to begin with, i.e. RTFM. Otherwise, I detest rushing the process. I’m here to teach, presumably you’re there to learn, and so I’m not moving for some arbitrary stupid clock until I’m convinced you’ve learned something.

Gripe

Ultimately, I feel the problem is staffing, but what can we do about that…

Idea! Instead of rebuilding the CFA tent every few weeks, why not spend the 5k/TA/semester to get a few more TAs?

ha, funny joke. I wish.

/end soapbox


But I guess all of these concerns will not be my concerns, come Spring.

It looks like I will not be able to impose my ideology at scale, hm. Probably for the best. I’m happy I appear to have made slight differences in some lives this semester.

Might still polish up whatever I had over winter, throw it into some git repo to rot. “Thoughts on teaching introductory courses”, as if I have a clue. hm. I realize I have nobody left to talk to meaningfully about teaching, which kind of sucks.

A bit of a mood change on the horizon.

Written on November 10, 2018