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Goals and Philosophy

Our goals and philosophy in teaching HST.720 are:
  • To teach you how to think critically about the major issues in the auditory periphery.
  • To learn how all of the pieces fit together to make the ear work (as opposed to probing in more and more detail about how individual pieces work).
  • To fully understand how all of the pieces fit together, we need to know a great deal about the workings of each piece but there is not time for us to learn all of the details about each piece, so:
  • To provide a balance of breath and depth, we will select a range of key papers and discuss in depth their contribution to understanding the auditory periphery.


The basic format of HST.720 is reading and discussing papers. Students will be in charge of discussing 3-5 papers per week. The faculty will be in charge of lectures and supervising paper discussions in the first 2/3 of the course. In the last 1/3 of the course, students will be in charge of lectures and supervising paper discussions.

For paper discussions, there will not be a formal presentation of the paper as was done in previous classes, instead students will be divided into two groups (1) Questioners, and (2) Answerers. Both groups will be responsible for reading the papers, but to different depths. Each paper must have at least 1 Answerer.

Questioners need to read to the depth necessary to understand what was done in the paper and to frame questions about the paper. Typical questions might be: What is the point of this paper? Why did they use technique X when technique Y seems better? What was the purpose of doing X? I don't understand Figure X, what does it mean? On page 12 they say X, but that contradicts Smith et al.'s results. What is going on?

Answerers are expected to have read the paper in depth so that they thoroughly understand it and can answer questions such as the above.

Project and Assignments

Paper preparation summaries for each session are due at the beginning of class. Each student must write a 1-page paper critique for each paper to be discussed.

Students assigned as Questioners for a given class session also turn in a list of questions to be discussed.

The last 1/3 of the course will consist of student-led topic discussions. Students must research and select a topic proposal, prepare a suggested reading list and in some cases, present a lecture about the topic.


There is no final exam. Grading will be based on a combination of:

  • The paper preparation summaries (these will be the main written assignments).
  • Class participation, evaluated for the knowledge and understanding of the material shown by the class participation (as opposed to just counting the number of things said in class).
  • The quality of the topic proposal (including the talk and the suggested-reading list, and, when applicable, the student lecture about the topic).

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