The way we prepare professors for life in the classroom is woefully inadequate.
We can’t expect someone who studied in a lab for eight years, looking at petri dishes and memorizing formulas, to get that piece of paper that says “Ph.D.” and magically become a skilled teacher. That is unreasonable.
Universities need to acknowledge this fact and incorporate some sort of training during the hiring process before a professor can teach. I don’t know if something like that already exists. What I do know is that I pay a lot of money to go to college – far too much money to be okay with bad teaching.
As a communications major, I have been blessed with some excellent professors. They are not only knowledgeable in their field but are genuinely fun to be around and chat with.
Maybe it is because they are in the field, but my professors generally have charisma and are top notch public speakers. I am grateful for all that they have taught me, and once I graduate and go off into the working world, I will not hesitate to email or call my old professors for advice.
That being said, I have had some awful professors as well. Not only do they have none of the good qualities I mentioned before, but they usually have at least one really bad quality. Some of the bad qualities include but are not limited to: talking down to students, inadequate explanation of topics, too much reliance on textbook curriculum and poor public speaking skills just to name a few.
Don’t get me wrong, there are far more good professors than bad ones. However, when you’re paying thousands of dollars a semester to attend college, a bad professor becomes a big problem.
Students frequently complain that they cannot understand their professor’s accent. There is no doubt that those professors in question are experts in their given field. Anyone who holds a Ph.D. is clearly knowledgeable and has put in much effort to get that degree. But if your accent is so thick that I can’t understand you, what good does your expertise do me?
This brings me to my main point: there are good professors and good teachers, and the two are not mutually exclusive.
In Latin, a professor is “a person who professes to be an expert in some art or science,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.
Ideally, a professor should be an expert in their field as well as an expert in sharing that knowledge with others. The Latin definition also emphasizes that a professor is a “teacher of the highest rank.” How can we expect professors to be teachers of the highest rank without learning the skills required to be a good teacher?
During my freshman year I ended up taking a chemistry and a math class. Wow, what a mistake. Not only did I learn nothing from these professors, but I was so appalled by the instruction of classes that I literally changed my major.
I have a solution to this. Having an independent evaluator who randomly attends classes would be a way to solve the problem. The evaluator would provide feedback to the professor in a private meeting. This is a way to provide unbiased feedback to professors in a non-embarrassing way.
We can’t continue leaving the fate of our college classrooms in the hands of professors who may or may not be good at teaching.