Herbert A. Simon Award for Teaching Excellence
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 15213-3891
(412)268-8525 . (412)268-5576 (fax)

More is More...

Steven Rudich

Time is our most limited and expensive resource. This is especially true of the lecture hours in a college semester. I want my lectures to be worth it, hour by hour and minute by minute.

Far too many objectives compete for the available time. There are skills to be imparted. Habits of thinking to be imprinted. Morale to be boosted. Confidence to be built. Philosophical and historical perspective to be shared. Tests to be given. Questions to be answered. Comments to be heard. Jokes to be told. Great ideas to be explained.

It seems impossible to fit all these things into a single semester without going too fast. Overloading the students is counterproductive. One solution is to pick a few worthy goals and focus on attaining them; this tactic is often called "less is more". I am experimenting with another tactic which I call "more is more". This means trying to craft each lecture so as to fit two hours into one. With practice I have gotten much better at defying the apparent limitations of time. Each semester I succeed in getting more across to the students. Alas! I still go too fast! But I am not going to slow down yet. My experiment continues and I have much room for improvement.

Down the road, I may conclude that I have been overstretching the boundaries of an hour. But I would rather discover the limit by experience than underestimate what is possible.

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