4 Apr, 2013

The Difference Between “Good” and “Bad” Teachers

What’s the difference between a “good” teacher and a “bad” teacher, between a great learning experience and a bore? Intuitively, we all know the difference. Bad teachers are dull and uninspiring. Their lectures drone on and on, and before long it’s a struggle just to stay awake. I had an English professor once who so inspired me that I spent time in the library expanding my knowledge of the literature we were discussing.  Making an “A” in his class was easy. The next semester, I had a professor who was so dull that I had trouble keep my eyes open in his class. Ever since then, I have tried to emulate the great teacher.  

Effective teachers are engaging, often entertaining, and fearless. They’ll do just about anything to hold a student’s attention and find a way to drive home an important principle. Even the most highly motivated students learn more, and retain more of what they learn, when they are entertained.   

Important points need to be presented in several forms, because everyone has a unique learning style. It’s also entertaining (and thought-provoking) to preview upcoming lectures. For example, we need a drilling fluid that has a very low viscosity when it leaves the drill bit nozzles but has a very high viscosity when it is coming back up the hole to bring up the cuttings. How do we create such a fluid? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s lecture!

Creative teachers often improvise. They know that a simple, 1-minute demonstration with everyday props will sometimes be the catalyst that crystallizes a concept you’ve been discussing for 20 minutes. With a little imagination, a nut on the end of a string becomes the drilling fluid whirling inside a desilter. A rubber band becomes an elastic drill string causing surge and swab pressures – the result of stopping or starting the drill pipe movement too quickly. A tray of sand becomes a beach that illustrates the dilatant behavior of sand.  A piece of hard black shale conveys the impermeable nature of shale to go with the electron microscope picture that shows holes in the shale. A stack of paper becomes a clay structure. A torn sheet of paper illustrates how some of the charges are created by disrupting a crystal structure. This is then the pathway to solving the ‘advertising teaser’.  A wadded-up sheet of paper is a drilled solid that would clearly disrupt a good filter cake.  

Interested in more content such as this? Sign-up for email updates!

Two-way communication continues after the course ends.

Learning is a two-way process that connects teachers with participants and the present with the past.  Participants must always feel encouraged to ask questions that link course discussion with their own past experiences on the job. Seldom does a class exist where two students have the same background. The questions usually reflect that.  

Long after the class is over, the conversation continues. I encourage participants to call or email whenever questions arise and assure them they will not be charged a consulting fee. This ongoing connection helps them relate the theory and technology we discussed to their work. It also helps to keep me in tune with current problems – so we’re learning from one another.


LEON ROBINSON had a 39 year career at Exxon and made contributions in many technology areas such as: mud cleaners, explosive drilling, drilling data telemetry, subsurface rock mechanics, and drilling and hydraulic optimization techniques, tertiary oil recovery, on-site drilling workshops, world-wide drilling fluid seminars and rig site consultation. Throughout his last 25 years with Exxon, he delivered annual lectures at in-house Drilling Engineering Schools on various topics.

Since retiring from Exxon Production Research in 1992, Dr. Robinson has remained active working with the SPE, API, AADE, IADC, and consulting on drilling activities. He has received 34 US patents, 23 International patents, the 1981 IADC Special Recognition Award, the 1986 SPE Drilling Engineering Award, several Exxon lecturer awards, the 1999 AADE Meritorious Service Award, the 2004 SPE Legion of Honor Award, the 2006 API Service Award, in 2006 was inducted into the AADE Hall of Fame, in Sept. 2008, one of the first five recognized by SPE as a “Drilling Legend”.

Currently, he is a consultant, Chairman of the IADC Technical Publications Committee writing the encyclopedia of drilling, Chairman of an API task group involved with API RP 13C, member of API task groups addressing issues with drilling fluids and hydraulics, and on the AADE Conference planning committee. He was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1946, received a B.S. and a M.S. in Physics from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in Engineering Physics from N.C. State University.