Thursday, February 01, 2007

A tribute to one of the greatest lecturers ever: Dr Mark Coleman

EDIT 08/06/2008: Just added to this what I wrote on a feedback form and something about TGG, having been lectured by Dr. Coleman in my second year too. (See end).

Without a doubt, so far from my experiences at the University of Manchester, the only lectures so far that I've looked forward to have to be Dr Coleman's lectures. I may not have been at the university for long, but from my short time here he has joined the league of extraordinary maths teachers that I have met. I'm not the only person who voted him in, many of my friends share the same opinion as me (shockingly!). So the group membership has increased to four. The other members are my year 10 maths teacher, who inspired me to do maths and my two further maths teachers!

Please note, I said one of the greatest, so there is still room for more! (and maybe Dr Heil, will soon be there!) So the question arises, why has Dr Coleman being granted this honorary position? Simple. He's a cool guy and a fantastic lecturer (and funny too!) I'm the type of student who learns 90% of the time when being taught. Other students (like my friend) don't really care about what's being taught during lectures, however when exam time comes they do hard-core revision and pass. As you may have realised, I don't tend to revise as much as I perhaps should. But this is because I have to make sure that I understand fully what it is being said in the lecture. If I don't understand, I go and make sure that I do understand what's being said, so when exams come all I'm doing is revising and not actually learning the concepts. I didn't do this particularly well for the first semester, but semester 2 will hopefully be another story!

Also, I have come to realise that if I like a teacher/lecturer, I tend to persevere in his/her subject. And if I don't like a lecturer/teacher then I hate that subject. However I only ever 'dislike' or 'hate' a teacher because of their attitude and behaviour towards me. My Physics teacher in school used to always treat me differently, calling me arrogant etc. Consequently I hated her and hated physics. This wasn't particularly good for my Physics education, because I really did struggle during my GCSE however I just couldn't bring myself to pay attention and be enthusiastic about her subject!

OK enough about me, this is meant to be about Dr Mark Coleman. We had Dr Coleman, for the second half of MT10101, and I wasn't particularly looking forward to the previous lecturer leaving. So I went to my first lecture with a guarded attitude. My friend had previously encountered him and was a bit worried, but since she was worried I was more determined not to be. Anyhow, Dr Coleman was completely different to the previous lecturer and that put a few students off. But on the whole, after his lecture I looked at how many pages of notes I had written! I couldn't believe it! 3 pages of bleeding maths notes!!?? I must be dreaming! No seriously, I was delighted! And the notes were fairly structured, with loads of examples! There was a theorem, the proof and EXAMPLES!! I really appreciate examples, because they give me some experience and knowledge of what to do in future. But the main thing is, that my notes had an element of order to them!

Maybe there was a case of too many proofs, and during the questionnaires which he had handed out, quite a few students must have remarked on it. Later he did mention something about proofs being vital, and what's the point of doing maths if you don't do the proofs? At that time I wasn't particularly taken in by his remarks, (proofs are another thing I don't like, mostly because I just can't do them!) however now, as I sit in my lectures and I'm presented with a theorem, I want the proof for it!! This is a massive turn around! A couple of weeks ago I used to hate proofs, but Dr Coleman was correct. Proofs enhance ones understanding of a concept, which I also found useful in Calculus. Although I can't construct them, I can 'sometimes' follow a few proofs, but it's vital that they're there! So I guess I'm a convert then!

You see Dr Coleman's teaching coincides with my learning method, and possibly a few of my friends as well. (Although one of them did prefer the other lecturer, since he talked more! I prefer writing more). Dr Coleman may have sometimes gone pretty fast (he had a lot of material to cover) but as well as my notes being beautifully structured, he also puts notes up on the internet after he'd finished the topic!

Another thing which is important in a teacher, is how they motivate a reaction in their students. The previous lecturer tended to say 'I don't expect you to understand', 'I didn't get it straight away' etc. At the time I appreciated this, because I thought that 'if he didn't get it straight away, then it's not big deal if I don't'! However this caused me to become LAZY!!!! That was one thing that I did NOT want to do!! It caused me to take the back seat, and always say to myself that its OK if I don't understand. So I've finally found the cause for my struggle during the first few months! However Dr Coleman was completely different, and he caused me to change my attitude and approach to things.

Dr Coleman assumed that we knew everything that he has done in previous lectures, which annoying (/scary) as it first was, pushed me to actually work! The fact that he didn't religiously follow Peter Eccles book was a relief!! That meant I had different and more examples to help me to understand what is being said! And since he provided notes, I knew what to look up in PJE's book when revising, rather than the whole of it. His questions weren't from the book, so I didn't write the answers from the back and hand them in!!:o (maybe I shouldn't be doing that at university, but I gave into temptation!) Due to this assumption that we should know yesterday's lecture I used to come home and from 5-7 try to understand the concepts, proofs and do questions (from other books from the library as well!). Since I'm a bit slow in maths I had to do this. (And I finally understood modular arithmetic-woooo!)

If I did ever get stuck, I just used to ask Dr Coleman, and although he never told me the answer he did help me on more than one occasion! I'm not clever enough to understand what he meant the first time round, but he really ironed out the creases in my understanding! He even let me sign my name on the blackboard, to claim that his lecture was actually given by me. Now that gives him bonus points! He has a way of saying things, which will make sense. He doesn't make you feel "thick" or "stupid" for asking a dumb question, and I always tend to take any questions I have to him (about general maths, or any other area which I feel he can help me with).

Since this is a tribute to Dr C, I must mention his favourite word of all times. Well it might not be his best word, but it's caught on now. *drum roll please* the word is 'trivial', and according to my linear algebra book, 'The word trivial is derived from from the Latin root tr- (three) and the Latin word via (road). Thus, speaking literally a triviality is a place where three roads meet. This common meeting point gives rise to the other, more familiar meaning of trivial - common place, ordinary or insignificant.' History lesson over, and another phrase often used is, 'If you're on the ball' (then he claims not to like football!)

Anyway, Dr Coleman didn't use his notes much during lectures, he may have made the odd mistake, but he was just testing us (wasn't he?) so he was always talking to us- not the board. He was teaching us! It's interesting how as my friends and I find him great, there are some students that don't. Each to their own I guess.

So does a teacher qualify for my honorary league because there teaching method coincides with my learning method? Most definitely not! My further maths teacher taught in an entirely different way, but like I said, the most important thing in my opinion is how the teacher gets you to react and how they make you work hard (and maybe there sense of humour ;) ). Dr Coleman, set a lot of questions on his problem sheets (which was also appreciated by me) but he got me working at the standard that I should have been working at. Hence his inclusion into this private league. (woo sounds so cool doesn't it! It's really cool to me, but I've not got any t-shirts printed yet!) He motivated me which made a big difference. Even today he still does motivate me, but it is a big shame that he won't be teaching me in my third year.

This post may seem a bit random (and long, I tend to get carried away at times!) however what really made me think about it was the difference I noted in the styles of teachings of the ex-VUM lecturers and the ex-UMIST ones. We're now one big happy family, but I sense that the ex-UMIST ones are the ones that prefer to give proper notes and structure, whereas some of the ex-VUM ones prefer free flow (which is not always bad). Also as my friends and I were having lunch, we all realised that we all missed Dr Coleman's lecture, so here he is being remembered/missed! Maybe because I'd got comfortable with his teaching method, and style that I was a slightly put off when the new lecturers taught differently? So it is best if I look to the future, rather than dwelling in the past. To the future! Ha!

I forget to mention that Dr Coleman deserved a round of applause at the end of his final lecture! He got a mini one from me but I'm guessing that because we were rushed for time towards the end, and it was the last ever lecture of the semester, everyone was more concerned about getting home!

Truly an inspirational lecturer whose teaching style is undoubtedly one of the best at this University. Clearly passionate about teaching and very enthusiastic whilst lecturing. Dr. Coleman obviously wants to be there (as opposed to having to be there) and enjoys lecturing , which is encouraging for us students for then we want to be there too.

The interactive nature of lectures, with stimulating(!) course material, makes them food and "unforgettable". (Especially with the use of exotic symbols such as the dagger!) Although Real Analysis was one of the hardest courses, it was one I enjoyed the most, and regret it ever ending.
Dr. MD Coleman is very approachable, helpful, and considering my bug-like nature, very patient too! He might be lax with inequalities sometimes, but that can be forgiven! He makes us feel part of the story that he is telling, i.e. Real Analysis, as opposed to us just being spectators. It is a shame that he only teaches two courses!

I must also add that had Dr. Coleman not been the staff coordinator for The Galois Group, we probably would not have gone far. His input and help has been extraordinary--especially his patience (during my tantrums shall we say). So perhaps I should forgive him for making me erm... believe that gullible wasn't a word in the dictionary! (I just hope that he continues with his role next year, but perhaps I should mither him less because he has got more other admin.) He made working on TGG a less lonely task, and more enjoyable.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree, his Real Analysis course is definitely my favourite of all the courses thus far!