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Teachers At Your Uni?

Mon Jan 23, 2006 7:08 am


(you can skip the first two paragraphs if you don't have much time)

I just got off the phone with my parents (and before that, a good friend studying math and physics), talked about uni stuff and so on. Those calls got me thinking once again: my friend, who was just as good in highschool as I was - and even if I may sound arrogant, that's pretty damn good - and who I don't think to be bad at uni at all, literally told me he was looking forward to "getting out of this shithole as fast as possible".

My mother told me a bit about a call she received from a former colleague (teacher) of hers, whose daughter also studies medicine and graduated. Said daughter, according to the call, didn't like med school all that much, but worked her way through it and AFAIK got good grades. Same thing for the daughter of a friend of my fathers' who is still in med school, and finally as for myself, I'm still trying to figure out how to make lemonade in life... as in "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade". I guess one central issue behind this is the mixed quality of teaching at universities, combined with the mental pressure often being put on students.

Therefore, I'd like to know what it's like at your university. In my case, the largest part of teaching is done during the daily 90-minute lecture beginning at 08:00 c.t., the "integrated lecture". There is a large variety in the quality of teaching, although I'm rather certain almost all professors have profound knowledge of the subjects they teach. However, some of them regularly impress the entire semester with their didactics, keep us interested for most of the time and don't even need to think about worrying about an empty lecture hall. Obviously, those are the lectures that motivate, inform and prepare well for the exams.

Alas, other teachers seem to be unable to focus on the most important matters - you always wonder whether the point they just made is the difference between failing and passing or between an "A" and an "A-". They put as much emphasis on details as they put on basics, they bore you to death with repetition and then suddenly add an important detail in a subordinate clause, they seem to be unfamiliar with the phrase "This is especially important..." and sometimes their every gesture, every word seem to be meant to tell us "you're all incompetent, and I don't want to be here".

These are the extremes, and certainly do not represent all of my teachers, but seeing how I don't appear the only one frustrated by this, I'd like to know what it's like at your universities. It's also more apparent now than it's ever been in highschool.
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RE: Teachers At Your Uni?

Mon Jan 23, 2006 10:15 am

Lately the departments/faculties that I attend have undergone quite a change which saw many lecturers leaving and many of our younger and new ones are really into what they do.

We students now also have a say in the election and evaluation process of new lecturers. I myself once attended one of those evaluation lectures.

Also at the end of each semester it is policy (at the Geography department) to evaluate the course and the person who ran it.
Those things are changing for the better here.
Btw, I think this is a typical German problem.
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RE: Teachers At Your Uni?

Mon Jan 23, 2006 10:37 am

I'm not sure if this is a problem at European universities, but it can be one in some instances here in the U.S. So usually professors can be only lecturers or also become researchers as well as lecturers, this is usually called tenure track. The tenure track varies from school to school but generally it requires that the professor writes an "x" number of research articles on the subject they teach (or related, so if you are business prof., you can do something like marketing or intl business) and have them published in a "y" number of journals in a "z" number of years or get the boot. If they succeed, they get tenured and then can work on their research at their own pace and also focus on lecturing. That basically means they have a guaranteed job at that school. Why I bring this up?

Well, in some instances where professors are on that tenure track, they understandably put their research in front of their students' needs in order to secure their job. This tenure track also adds great stress to the professor, think about it: you have to prepare for class as well as gather data for scholarly research.

That can be frustrating for a student as I had a prof. last semester who basically didn't teach the last 5 weeks of class because she was working on research or going to conferences. Instead she had "guest" lecturers or simply didn't have class. Also, some professors simply have their TAs (teaching assistants) handle the dirty work (grading, dealing with students, etc.) It's annoying dealing with TAs because usually they're there to learn from the professors, not to do the job for them, at least not yet anyway.

At my uni, where research doesn't play a big part (not in the departments I'm involved in anyway), it's not really a problem. The example mentioned above was only used as an example, but AFAIK most professors in my department (Communications) are already tenured.
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RE: Teachers At Your Uni?

Mon Jan 23, 2006 11:38 am

Here at USC, for the most part I've had good experiences. Most professors I've had in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering have been knowledgeable, and no less important, approachable.

The quality and approach to teaching obviously varies from professor to professor. Some manage to keep the classroom interesting and entertaining for the whole semester. Others, I would regularly fall asleep in class. Some professors, while being pretty hard, still really made you understand the material.

TAs typically run discussion sections and labs. They are usually graduate students in the department (a few are undergrads who've already taken the class). The quality of TAs varies quite a bit more than professors, as would be expected.

All professors hold office hours (I think they're required to) at least twice a week. These are the times when anyone can walk into their office without an appointment and ask questions or discuss material. TAs also hold office hours once or twice a week. Typically, professors are open to setting up appointments outside of office hour time.

Overall, I've had a good experience with my classes and professors. Even if they're not the best at teaching, being approachable outside the classroom counts for a lot, in my opinion, and most of them have been good with that.

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