Lectured Out

Just time for a quick post today because I’m quite knackered. Both my lectures for the Summer School I’m attending were this morning, and each was 90 minutes long – though there was a 30 minute coffee break between the two. The students therefore had to out up with me droning on most of the morning so were probably sick of the sight of me by lunchtime although they were quite polite about it. MOst of the participants went off on an excursion after lunch, but I decided to stay behind and take a siesta. I’m definitely too old for hiking in this heat.

The conference organizers told me that ninety minute lectures are apparently quite normal in Germany. I’m not sure why. I don’t think students can concentrate for that length of time, and it’s a definite strain on the lecturer too. I find even an hour lecture quite tiring, actually, but that’s more the effect of expending nervous energy walking backwards and forwards trying frantically to tell if anyone is understanding what I’m talking about. I usually enjoy lecturing actually, but it’s definitely stressful at the time. Now that I’m Head of School I won’t get to do as much teaching in the future as I did in the past. I suppose I’ll miss that “contact” with students, but I don’t think their education will suffer at all as a consequence of not being taught by me!

This is graduation week at the University of Sussex; finalists from the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences actually graduate tomorrow. In normal circumstances I would be there to read out the names as the graduands parade across the stage, but I committed to attend this Summer School long before I’d even been appointed to my job as Head of MPS so felt I shouldn’t leave the organizers in the lurch. The Deputy Head of School will therefore do the honours at tomorrow’s ceremony. I haven’t been there long enough to get to know the graduating class very well, so it’s quite fitting that he’s looking after them on the big day. In other words, I don’t think I’ll be missed. I also see that final year students from the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University will be graduating next Monday (15th July). I’ve known some of them for almost four years so feel a bit sad that I left before they finished, but I’m sure I won’t be missed on that occasion either. I bet most of them have already forgotten I was ever there!

Anyway, on the off chance that any graduating students from either Sussex or Cardiff happen to read this, I hope you enjoy the graduation ceremony and associated celebrations and wish you well as you embark on the next stage of life’s journey.

9 Responses to “Lectured Out”

  1. Peter, I reckon 45 minutes of intense teaching is the limit. That’s the length of RAS lectures on Queen Mary 2. The summer school should have given you three one hour slots over 1.5 days

  2. If my lectures are scheduled for longer than an hour then I will include a break. An audience cannont concentrate intensley for more than about 45-50 minutes. I could go longer than this, as by 20 minutes most of them have fallen asleep anyway and I’m the only one still awake (barely).

  3. Peter, be a darling and correct my typos please? Thanks!

  4. Those who understand German will appreciate: “Man kann über alles reden, aber nicht über eine Stunde”. The pun doesn’t translate to English, though.

    Actually, I’m sure many people welcomed Peter’s lectures, as they were quite entertaining. Some of the others were quite heavy going, though from questions and comments it was clear that at least some people followed not just the gist but even the details. I suppose some are more familiar with the material than I, some more intelligent, and some probably both.

    • So you’re there too Phillip, at this conference?

      • I was, last week; it’s over now. It’s only about an hour’s drive from where I live. Also very inexpensive, since it’s sponsored by a foundation: just EUR 200 normal price and only EUR 100 for members of the German Physical Society (like me), including food and lodging on-site in the beautiful old building. Since I was sure to learn something new, and the lecturers looked interesting, I went. Good decision. Some people had traveled from as far as Japan just for this.

        It was more of a school than a conference, though.

      • That is a bargain price!

  5. When I studied physics in Hamburg a bit more than 20 years ago, the “lecture unit” was 45 minutes. Main lectures had 3 units a week, and this was split into one at 75 minutes and one at 60 minutes on different days of the week. Others were two units, so this was 90 minutes in one go.

    Things have changed now, with the Bachelor and Master business leading to a more school-like schedule. I often had long breaks between various events so could pop over to the neighbouring park on good days or to a nearby sauna when it was colder (there used to be a sauna with an entrance fee of only DM 5 for 2 hours). These breaks usually allowed me to complete my homework so I didn’t have to spend time on it at home. So, 90 minutes at once, yes, but not the whole day. (At the school, it was 4 90-minute lectures a day, separated by coffee breaks and lunch. About like a normal conference schedule, though at most conferences most talks are shorter.)

  6. When I was an undergraduate student in Sweden, all teaching (except some lab sessions) was timetabled in blocks of 2×45 minutes, with 15-minute breaks between the two halves of each block and between blocks (except noon-1pm which was always free for lunch).

    45 minutes is probably close to the average attention span, so that is about the time that any lecture can proceed effectively without a break. Having lectures of 2×45 minutes meant that each lecture could cover a decent amount of material.

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