Archive for Semesters

Marking the End of Term

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , , , , on May 11, 2019 by telescoper

So here we are, then. The term is finally over. Lectures officially finished yesterday, and there’s now another week or so before examinations start (next Friday, 17th May). The examinations for my two modules take place on Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd May, and after that I’ll be busy with marking for a while. In fact, I’ll probably be getting much busier in general pretty soon, but more of that in due course…

 

Marking doesn’t just mean written examinations. I have been teaching a module on Computational Physics to 3rd Year students here in Maynooth, and 40% of the assessment for that is a mini-project (usually done in groups of two or three). Early on the term, I put up a list of a dozen or so projects and ask them to pick first second and third choices so I can form groups in such a way that most students get to work on a project they like the look of. This year I made up a new set of projects, but I feel a bit sorry for one of them (`Scattering in a Spherical Potential’), which didn’t appear anywhere \at all on any student’s list of preferences. That’s a shame as I thought it was a well-rounded project, with lots of potential. Hopefully it will prove more popular next year…

Anyway, the deadline for projects to be handed in came yesterday so I’ve got a stack of those to mark which, you will realise, why I am indulging in a displacement activity by writing this blog post. My plan is to mark these next week so that they’re done before the written examinations come in.

Before I get on with what I should be doing I’ll just mention another thing that happened yesterday: the President of Ireland (Uachtarán na hÉireann), Michael D. Higgins visited Maynooth University yesterday:

That’s him at the front, on the right, of course. The reason for his visit was to attend a memorial service.

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End of Term

Posted in Biographical, Education with tags , , , on March 30, 2012 by telescoper

So here we are, then. The last day of term has finally arrived.  Many of our students will be out partying tonight before they start a three-week break with little to disturb their relaxation but project reports, assignments and examination revision. Probably not all that relaxing at all then, especially for the final-year students.

For various reasons I’ve found this term very heavy going and am  looking forward to spending some time away over the next couple of weeks.  More about that in due course, assuming I have internet access…

The curious thing about the academic year is that since most UK universities switched to a semester system we’ve had to cope with the fact that Easter isn’t on a fixed calendar date. Last year, Easter was rather late so we managed to squeeze in a full 11 weeks teaching in before the vacation started. This year we’ve only got time for 9 weeks, so we resume teaching in three weeks’ time for another two weeks, followed by a revision week and the examination period. I think most students probably agree with me that this hiatus is extremely annoying.

This year Good Friday is on 6th April (a week today) and Easter Monday on 9th April; both are statutory (“bank”) holidays in the UK. Most universities have felt obliged to move their recess so that these two holidays occur outside term-time.

If I had my way we would have fixed semester dates so this nonsense of a 9+2 week teaching semester wouldn’t happen. Last year’s 11-week uninterrupted run was a slog, but I much prefer it over the stop-start affair we’re having this year.

I was a visiting professor at an American university over one Easter period many years ago. Given the fact that the Christian lobby is far more powerful over there than it is here I was quite surprised by the fact that there’s no real interruption for Easter. Lectures were held on Good Friday and there’s no Easter Monday holiday. Easter Sunday was definitely observed, but that had no effect on teaching.

The two Bank Holidays are a bit of a problem, of course, especially because they are followed by two more in May. However, when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge, we had lectures as normal on bank holidays.  I’m not sure whether that practice was restricted to Oxbridge colleges – where term dates are different to elsewhere anyway – or some other Universities did the same. I don’t even know if Oxbridge still carries on over bank holidays today…

A better solution would be to distribute the statutory holidays more evenly through the year so they weren’t concentrated so inconveniently in Spring. There would be  nothing to stop Christians taking a day’s leave in order to observe Good Friday, of course.

But since only a minority of British people are practising Christians, why are the rest of us forced to arrange our calendars according to archaic and irrelevant rituals?  Far better, in my opinion,  to give us all a day off for the start of the cricket season…

Grumble over, it just remains for me to wish my loyal readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers) all the best for the recess, and I hope it’s a good night at the Student Ball tonight!