Learn the material

What does “Learn the material” mean to you?  Does it mean simply attending class?  Does it mean scanning through the textbook?  Or, does it mean doing whatever you need to do to learn the material?

As exams approach I occasionally receive emails of the nature “I am just not grasping the information.”  Well, this may be a surprise to some, but odds are you will not learn 100% of the material by just attending a lecture.  In fact, in my 11 years of college education, after three degrees, at three schools, in three different states, only once can I remember learning all the material by simply attending the lecture.  Even then, I had to rehearse what I learned by doing assigned homework.  For the 99.9% of the other classes I had to obtain different books, work with study groups on occasion, stop by the professor’s office hours, email the professor, and stay in the library until it closed most days of the week.  Are you doing that?

A student taking one of my classes is fortunate.  I have made a wealth of resources available.  Allow me to summarize what is available to you:

  1. efficientminds.com: Entire lecture notes
  2. efficientminds.com: Eight Learning Modules such as this one on Risk and Return.
  3. efficientminds.com: Extra credit explanations
  4. efficientminds.com: Homework helpers
  5. efficientminds.com: Additional finance-related posts such as this one
  6. efficientminds.com:: Microsoft Excel examples
  7. A wealth of supplemental articles and links to video organized by topic on my Google Drive.
  8. The end of chapter problems in your textbook.
  9. Alternate textbooks on library reserve:
    • Ross, Westerfield, and Jaffe. Corporate Finance, ninth edition
    • Parrino and Kidwell. Fundamentals of Corporate Finance, University of Memphis edition.
    • Brigham and Daves. Intermediate Financial Management, ninth edition.
  10. Thousands of worked out example problems organized by topic (use the table of contents and index), also on library reserve:
    • Schaum’s Outline of Mathematics of Finance
    • Schaum’s Outline of Financial Management
    • Schaum’s Outline of Basic Business Mathematics
  11. BlackBoard
    • Homework with feedback
    • Discussion forums
  12. Business student services Business Tutoring Program
  13. The internet: Google searches, Investopedia, Khan Academy, YouTube, etc.
  14. My office hours (and I make appointments if the regularly scheduled time does not work for you).
  15. My email

So, whenever a student tells me “I am not grasping the material” I must question if that student has utilized the long list of available resources.  If, and that is a big if, after going through the whole list and spending 7 hours/week outside of the class studying you are not grasping the material then we need to talk.

Finally, and I must admit frustration here, is the comment “the exams don’t match the homework” or “the homework is totally different from the lecture” or “the lecture is totally different from the book.”  I believe all such statements are bogus.

To begin, the homework problems are selected from the CD that came with the instructor’s edition of the textbook.  I base my exams off the same CD. So the book-homework-exam connection is irrefutable.  Now, as of Fall 2012 I must give a final exam prepared by committee.  The wording of that exam will vary from the wording of my textbook.  However, we are all supposed to understand English and the material leading up to the final.  Also, I asked one student in the Fall 2012 semester “what did you think of that final?”  His reply?  “It was a gimmie compared to your exams.”  Moral of the story: if you understand English and understand the material you will do well on the final.

Now, regarding my lecture notes.  Guess what I based them on?  You got it. The same textbook.  So the book-lecture-lecture note-homework-exam connection is also solid.  I interpret any comments suggesting that connection is weak as “I really haven’t spent the necessary time.” or “I am lazy and I am asking you to work out the same problem in class that is on the homework that is on the exam.  Do not give me any problems worded in different ways.  I just want to pass the exams.”  This is related to the spoon-feeding I spoke about in this post (be sure to read the comments to that post also).

Let me end with a quote from my very first calculus class at Purdue University back in 1990:

Do not study for the test.  Study to learn the material and the test will be easy.

I sure hope you heed that timeless advice not only in my class, but all of your classes.

One thought on “Learn the material

  1. Great post questioning how some students think that comprehension is this magical event. I also taught post-secondary using a similar emphasis of text-lecture and Q&A as related to text. Yet I could see from assignments/comments that some students barely skimmed a millimetre below the surface of the content, missing that joy of ‘deep’ learning. This is a great post. Thank-you.

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