When talking with students it frequently happens that they misunderstand what you meant. The common example is the amount of rigor that one would consider "a proof", but there are other things, like
- smooth meaning $C^2$ or $C^\infty$,
- ring meaning a ring with or without multiplicative identity,
- representing points as row or column vectors,
- defining Fourier transform with different constants,
- zero being a natural number or not,
- using term "graph" for undirected graphs only,
- tree meaning rooted binary tree,
or for more soft examples
- participation of the students in lectures,
- checking homework or some specific way of grading it,
- relation between exam problems and the problems covered in the class,
- the way the instructor answers questions,
and others. Of course, it's best to address all the uncertain points (e.g. at the first lecture or in the notes), however, the problem is it's not always possible, to name a few reasons:
- there is not enough resources (time/space/attention span),
- some things seem too obvious,
- one my find him/herself unprepared (for whatever reason),
- one doesn't know the audience,
- one doesn't have enough experience,
- some point was addressed, but the student missed or forgot it.
Naturally, it doesn't apply only to students, but this is frequent and may have some specifics (e.g., I'm not saying it's good, but it is possible to force some convention).
General question: How to best address these issues?
More specific questions:
- What approach to use, when there is no enough time or space to explain? For example, if I want to fit all the homework problems on one sheet (for example to avoid tl;dr reaction).
- How to notice misunderstanding when it happens? E.g. it's hard to distinguish between non-understanding and misunderstanding.
- How to fix the problem when spotted? For example, I may have noticed that the student uses a different definition, but we are in the middle of reasoning and making a digression may be undesirable. Another example, the student solved an effectively different (perhaps easier) problem.
- How can I make the students be aware of it and careful in this aspect? E.g. to make them ask for clarification instead of assuming some particular version.
Edit: There's a very nice post about definitions by Jeff Stuart here, thanks to @Dave L Renfro for sharing it.