Fieldwork, lab work… and reading

Here’s what I want to tell the students when they ask me whether I want ‘their own ideas’:

We don’t go on many field trips. We don’t do lab work. We read classic texts – and that’s the same thing. We put ourselves in the place where we might discover something new. We engage in disciplined ways with the given reality that we encounter. We form hypotheses and test them. We have flashes of intuitive inspiration and we do the painstaking research that will enable us to be confident about them. We work as a team, we work as part of a continuing conversation. We explore, we are puzzled, we lose our way, we make mistakes, we try another route, we discover. When I start bouncing around excitedly in the seminars it is because I just learned something new. I expect that will still be happening occasionally when I have been teaching this course for thirty years. In this subject, you do fieldwork and experimental work from the first day, from the first time you open a book. (And the equipment doesn’t break down and you don’t have to get ethical approval). This is what I love, this is why I do this job, this is – I thought – why you are here. Of course I want your own interpretations; the lecturers in natural sciences want their students’ own experimental results. You are not here to gather information; you can do that via Google without going near a university. Information is overrated.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Alice on 27 March, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Print that out and put it up in the seminar room where they will all see it every day.


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