A Devil’s Glossary

Author: Paul van Kampen, CASTeL and School of Physical Sciences


This twenty-first century homage to Ambrose Bierce aims to elucidate terms that often appear in this blog. Only typical examples pertaining to common practices in the teaching and learning of science in Faculty of Science and Health at DCU are shown.

  •  assessment: rigorous method of mapping a student’s cognitive development during 12 weeks in a narrowly delineated area of science onto an integer between 0 and 100; cornerstone of university education that allows a student to showcase the power of their short-term memory and their proficiency at complex routine calculations.
  • continuous assessment: watered-down version of assessment administered in every module in weeks 6 and 12 to engage students (meaning 2) and prepare them for the real thing. Not to be confused with formative assessment, which does not meet the criteria for inclusion in this glossary.
  • circular reasoning: logically flawless argument confirming a premise, e.g. “lectures are good if and only if they transmit information accurately. In their exams these students reproduced the information presented to them in lectures accurately, so their lectures were good”.
  • data: 1. (research) a set of scrutinized observations. Antonym: data (meaning 2). 2. (teaching) See data (meaning 1).
  • direct instruction: the transmission of knowledge; most effective in three-hour blocks containing two 10-minute breaks to groups of 200 to 400 students in a Venutian atmosphere, in which case it also transmits reasoning skills.
  • discovering things for themselves: the only alternative to direct instruction. See also teaching (meaning 2); ignore e.g. Socratic questioning.
  • to dumb down: to engage in teaching pitched at students rather than academics.
  • to dumb up: (rare, may only appear in this blog post) to engage in direct instruction that can only be examined by recall questions. See also assessment.
  • to engage students: 1. to interlace direct instruction with videos and story telling. 2. to attempt to turn all students into good students.
  • good student: 1. student who is assigned a large integer in assessment. 2. a pleasant student who appears likely to experience this.
  • learning: the vestiges of teaching.
  • reasoning skills: collectively they denote the ability to apply concepts and resolve hitherto unseen complex problems; transmitted by direct instruction.
  • science: a body of knowledge determined by scientists to be learnt by good students, and other students too if they behave.
  • Socratic questioning: endlessly asking students what they think to avoid preparing direct instruction; purported to cause learning in victims and hemlock poisoning in perpetrators.
  • teaching: 1. direct instruction. 2. (often within scare quotes) sitting around while students exchange pleasantries.
  • university education: 1. (archaic) the acquisition of advanced knowledge, research skills, professional and ethical values, and the facilitation thereof. 2. an elaborate form of certification that depresses unemployment numbers among the middle classes at roughly the cost of a Jobseeker’s Allowance.
  • unproven methods: any interaction involving students that is not direct instruction. See also circular reasoning.

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