Presentation 101, How to Present Effectively

Do not read This one is easy: you should not read from notes. It does not matter if you stutter, search for your words, nothing—NOTHING!—is worse than someone reading from notes instead of presenting. Reading prevents you from connecting to your audience! If you read because your are unsure what you have planned to say, you need to move to the second piece of advice below: rehearsing. People who read from notes sometimes say that they are afraid to forget to say something.

Book Review of Super Courses

Super courses by Ken Bain is a book aimed at University teachers and describing a new breed of courses in Universities. According to the author what sets these courses apart is the fact that they are designed using insights from learning science. I landed on this book after reading Ultralearning by Scott Young (my review) and The Craft of College Teaching by Robert DiYanni and Anton Borst (my review).

Simple things to avoid in order to write better, tips for students (and others)

I just finished what I call marking season a few weeks ago. It is the period from the last week of August to the end of the second or third week of September when we do most of our MSc dissertations marking. I have had the pleasure to read very interesting work on a broad range of topics during this period. While the overall quality of the work I read was high, there were a number of recurring writing habits that bugged me.

Review of How to Write a Paragraph

Thriving in a degree programme (and I would argue—as Carmine Gallo does in Five Stars—in most careers) especially at MSc level requires the ability to write clearly and convincingly. I have been thinking a lot about how to help my MSc and PhD students write better (it also helps me, which is no bad thing). Many are not native speakers (between 60-80% depending on the year and the programme), so explicit advice about how to use English effectively is likely to yield good returns (as a non-native speaker myself, brushing up on good English is time well spent too).

Students, classes are but the tip of the iceberg! How to manage your studying time better

There is an easy trap that too many of you fall into. It is a trap so common that some, if not most, of your professors (myself included) have at some point fallen into it. This trap comes from looking at your calendar, seeing a few classes here and there each week, let’s say between 2 and 5 classes, and believe that your workload is totally manageable. After all, you are only in class for anywhere between 4 and 15 hours a week.

Review of Economical Writing

This little book makes for delightful and terrifying reading. Delightful because it is very well written, and hilarious at times. Terrifying because many of the rules expose flaws in one’s writing. The book packs a lot of very useful tips in a small format. It is a very good complement to the often recommended Strunk and White Elements of Style, with advice that is particularly useful to the social scientist.

You should use open-source software for teaching!

I have been teaching Data Analytics modules in various forms for the past five years. I started teaching class using R, because it was what I knew and what I used in my work. But over the years, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what software to teach. I have given thought to replacing R with Stata, Python, Julia or SPSS. While I discuss software in the context of teaching data analytics, the broad principles that guided my decision apply for classes in other disciplines that require software, for example the software you might use to teach architectural design, video production, or game design.

Review of Take Great Notes

Take Great Notes is a very short book from the Sage Super Quick Skills series written by Mal Leicester and Denise Taylor. It is aimed at undergraduates who wonder how they can improve their note taking. The book is also relevant for primary and secondary school students. I picked it up as I am designing material to help MSc students learn. As a result, not only have I been reading about how we learn (I wrote about studying tips, using flashcard, and group work), I have also been searching for advice on reading, writing and taking notes.

Rote memorising or more? Can using flashcards improve learning?

Flashcards are a well known studying technique and are widely used in language learning and medicine to help memorise large amount of information. They are less widely used in social sciences, which raises the question: is this because they are less useful here or because we are collectively missing a trick? So, what are flashcards good for? Can they be used effectively in contexts where memorisation is not central to learning?

Review of The Craft of College Teaching by Robert DiYanni and Anton Borst

Summary The Craft of College Teaching is primarily a guide for college teachers reviewing various aspects of college teaching and going over best practices in each of these aspects. I first became aware of the book while reading Ultralearning (my review), which I was reading more for personal enjoyment than as part of an effort of reflection on my teaching practice. However, it sparked my interest in reading more on pedagogy and The Craft of College Teaching made it’s way on top of the list of books that I drafted (more on the other books on this list below).