[OT] Education Theory (was Re: Database Design Theory?)

Tyler Strickland tyler at tylers.org
Wed Nov 9 17:27:14 MST 2005

On 11/09/2005 03:36 PM, Hans Fugal wrote:
> I agree, for myself, but I'd modify it a bit. If there's no
> _motivation_, then learning theory is like memorizing a phonebook. If
> there's motivation (the names and numbers are all the hot girls in your
> high school for example), then it's a different story.
> I was like Ross, and loved 252. I think Ross and I both probably saw
> at least at a subconscious level the application to problem solving a la
> the programming we all love to do.

I agree with that completely - and as I've read through this topic I 
realized a few reasons why I may have enjoyed my database class more 
than many of the other students who had a hard time with it:

1)  I had worked the previous summer as a programmer on an application 
that dealt with an Oracle database.  I'd had to write basic queries, 
design basic tables, etc.  I'd seen the design of our production 
database and as I went through the class I had something to compare the 
theory to.  I may not have had a directly practical application 
presented as part of the course, but I had one already built in my mind.

2)  The teacher was a mathematician and I was a 
statistician-in-training.  Because of our heavy math backgrounds I think 
I was able to understand him a little better than many of the business 
students in the class who had been avoiding math for years.

Along the way in my statistics core I took a class on survey sampling 
where we were involved with the exit poll for that year.  Because of the 
amount of work involved with the exit poll, not much theory was taught. 
  In consequence, I didn't enjoy the class very much and didn't really 
learn anything of value.  In fact, I sold my textbook on Amazon not too 
long ago because I saw no use in keeping it around.

There has to be a balance between theory and practice.  Too much theory 
and you're not sure why you're doing what you're doing.  A math teacher 
I once had who loved to go over proofs comes to mind.  Too much practice 
and it's easy to get bogged down in doing things instead of doing things 
well and it's hard to excel in the area.  In my case, with the survey 
sampling class, it turned an area I was mildly interested in to one that 
I had no desire to learn about.  I think that is the essence of a good 
teacher - one who is able to keep a students interest while teaching him 
good theory and mixing in enough practice to make him at least a little 
usefull when the class is over.  If he's done his job, the prepared 
student will want to learn more on his own after the class is over.  If 
he's failed, the prepared student will sell his book back to the 
bookstore in hopes of never encountering the subject again.  I say here 
prepared student because some students are going to struggle no matter 
what the teacher does.  Some students are going to lose interest no 
matter what the teacher does.  But in the ideal combination of prepared 
student + good teacher there's a lot that can happen.


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