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Markus Stocker

Between information technology and environmental science with a flair for economics, the clarinet, and the world of soups and salads.

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The semester ended with a seminar presentation, one out of ten this academic year. The meanwhile classic introduction-materials-methods-results-discussion-conclusions presentation template today had an additional final slide.

It said, 7:8.

I asked the class if anyone could guess what it represents, adding the hint that it is not a C:N ratio. After a few seconds, one guy came up with a suggestion. He was almost right. Indeed, 7:8 was the teacher-to-student ratio of the class, a two weeks intensive course in soil ecology laboratory. Needless to say, the class was likely the most interesting I ever had in my ever longer academic career and the reason why I thought the 7:8 ratio deserves a note was because learning with 1 teacher every 1.14 students is unique and a privilege that I certainly have experienced the first time.

Sitting between the rows, the professor later commented that albeit the cost per student in the course was high and nowadays fewer and fewer Finnish universities offer such courses a lower ratio would likely render the class ineffective. I cannot agree more.

One of the many sweet side effects of the 7:8 ratio was to see how the teacher-student relationship evolved over the period of two weeks. Working closely daily from 8 am to 4 pm definitively lead to an almost complete blurring of teacher and student roles. Granted, laboratory newbie as I am, I always knew I’m the student.

Incidentally, a few hours ago I listened to a recent Ken Robinson TED on learning revolution.