Category Archives: students

I will post this on the blackboard site…

7 Strategies to Raise Your GPA this Semester | Pick the Brain

my favorite: Come to class.

Although every now and again, I get a student who gets A++, and never, ever comes to class. Usually from a different major, too.

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It is a bad idea

to use ‘track changes’ in word if you are simply modifying someone else’s homework. Because you might forget to ‘accept changes.’


Each year when I write my final, I learn something new about the material. I teach a course which emphasizes problem solving and some of the basic tools in the field. Every year, there are new innovations in practice, and you can use the basic tools to analyze them. And each year I realize how important the basic tools are, relative to teaching the new buzzwords. Over time, I have taught less and less material, but taught the material I did cover better and better.

The best email to get is from a recent grad who says “The material in your course really prepared me for dealing with new innovations in practice” Such emails don’t come often, but when they do, it really makes it all worthwhile.


I always thought that it was a bad idea to admit students with differing levels of support, at least up-front. Here is a nice write-up as to why I think so:

Lesboprof: Privilege You Can Feel, Even If You Can’t Always Name It.

But then, I remember that I was a low quality candidate at the Master’s program I went to, and so had the worst funding of all, and needed to take ‘make-up’ course work at the start. If that school had a ‘everyone equal policy’ I would not have been admitted, since I looked so bad on paper. Even though I just needed the chance to be admitted, because I was the top student after the first semester, and surprised everyone (including me).

So it does not seem so clear to me after all. If I was a data=anecdote type, I would say that you should re-evaluate after one semester. But that is wrong-sometimes graduate students students surprise you—they do well at coursework and terrible at research, or more happily, bad at coursework but great at research.

Where I work, you can tell after about a year and a half if a student is going to be good. It is not 100% though. The winning strategy is to treat them all well. But we are small, and I am sure we miss lots of potential greatness because we don’t let people in who are slightly worse ex-ante because we keep everyone’s funding at the same level—and so are budget (and faculty time) constrained.

No surprise, there is a trade-off here.

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Here is a nice post with some interesting comments on how to deal with cheating:  Marginal Revolution: The Law of Below Averages

I agree that cheaters ‘on average’ never prosper. But it is the ‘on the margin’ stuff that is more interesting.

I suppose though that is why we worry about all the grades when making the decisions.  I wonder too, exactly what we are certifying with our grades.  It is confusing enough to decide to make them absolute or relative.  So I make them relative, but you cannot pass or get an A unless you make some sort of absolute level.

How good are humans at judging expertise, anyway?

Can you tell I did grades this week?

One of my favorite professors used exams to explain dynamic consistency, and rules vs. discretion.

We have exams to make sure you work to learn the material.  But off course, once you learn the material, why bother with the exam–it only makes extra work for everyone. It is therefore optimal to cancel the test once you have studied and the instructor knows that you have studied.  If you knew that was the outcome, why study, since you will never be tested.  Hence, exams, and rules for requiring exams.

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Nothing more satisfying

than reading a paper you wrote a few years ago and still being happy with it.  It’s even better when your co-authors agree with you.

And I am usually hard on myself.  I find fault in most of my stuff, although not this time.

Now I am working on writing reference letters for students.  I like the student on the market this year, a whole lot.  But I can’t write ‘best student ever’ every time, can I?

Some people do—but then we ignore them after a while.  Too much noise.

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Oh oh. To show to students interviewing for a job.

This should be required viewing for everyone looking for a job:Vayner video

from: dethroner

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