Critiquing Schoolwork
Last Updated: 2019-08-08 18:04

I'm taking some classes this quarter, and they are all sort of okay. What I'm annoyed by is how much better the assignments and lectures could be. Being the critical / prone-to-optimizing person that I am, I notice the ways that I think exercises / lectures could be better. "If I were teaching, I'd do it this way," is a common thought I have.

What makes all of this annoying is that I'm finding it harder and harder to justify doing some of the school work assigned to me when I could imagine spending it on something better, from a pedagogical standpoint. One part of this is the whole, "Once you're told to do something, it feels much less intrinsically motivating than if you want to do it for yourself." As a rule, this has been very true in describing my motivation. The other part, though, is that there are times when I'm happy to commit to school work, but it has to make a convincing case to be worth my while.

And that doesn't seem to be happening. (Pent-up frustration goes here.)

I know that the people teaching are making pedagogical trade-offs. There is effort being put into the choices they make. I'd just like for them to be clearer. Arguably the meta behind the process isn't needed for the object-level class--if you're just showing up to be taught. But I'm picky.

One thing that's a common thread here is that this happens for subjects I know at least a little about. That seems like a prerequisite for me to have strong opinions. (Obvious, but still pointing it out.)

What are the things which make an assignment worthwhile for me? Some scattered thoughts lie below:

  1. Proving things. For technical courses, this often gives better justification for why things are the case.
  2. Doing a practical problem on real-world data, or the like. This feels good because it brings up skills that are transferable to my own projects.
  3. "Novel" approaches to problems, putting a new spin on things.

I'm not going particularly out of my way to justify any of this. Just taking note of some things that have been on my mind lately.