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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Fear of bad professors makes registration a nightmare for students

It’s registration season here at the UA, and plenty of students are getting excited about their future schedules. We’re not even in the home stretch of this semester yet, and people are already talking about fall 2016.

One of the topics of conversation that often comes up in regard to schedule-planning is choice of instructor.

When it comes time to take a difficult class, students tend to want the best professor for that class. Having a good professor makes students feel more comfortable learning difficult subject matter and, in theory, increases their likelihood of getting a good grade.

As a result, students try to hunt down the best instructors, whether it be via word of mouth, social media or sites like RateMyProfessors.com. Results from any attempted search are often inconclusive; positive and negative reviews and recommendations vary widely from student to student. It’s not as easy as it sounds to find the “best” professor for a certain class.

But this confusion isn’t the root of the problem; the major issue here is the fact that students even have to do this.

Depending on the major you’re in, the classes you need to take and where you rank within priority registration, it can be tough to get all the classes you need and have them all line up in a cohesive schedule. Adding in another parameter — choice of professor — and it gets even more difficult to create a harmonious arrangement of classes that also doesn’t conflict with extracurricular life.

Beyond that, students are attending college to get a good education. We’re also paying a pretty hefty price for it. We shouldn’t have to worry about having a bad professor. For the money we’re shelling out, it seems to me that every professor who teaches calculus should be able to properly instruct me on how to integrate a function. Every professor should be good.

But this just isn’t the case.

I’m not talking about strict professors that give a lot of work or grade harshly; if anything, these professors are posing a challenge and encouraging their students to work hard to truly learn the material. I’m talking about the professors who teach so that the class doesn’t understand what is going on. Whether it’s speaking too quickly, not providing enough clarity, providing illegible notes or any other issue, these instructors can be toxic to any student’s education.

I can’t help but wonder: is the university administration simply unaware of the situation? When it gets severe and the majority of students aren’t able to comprehend what’s going on in lecture, is anything being done in response?

Well, it frankly isn’t any of my business. It isn’t up to me who the university chooses to employ. The UA does provide some information on the faculty recruitment and hiring process, and it seems clear that candidates who aren’t qualified are unlikely to be hired. This practice makes sense — if too many bad professors are teaching and student success starts declining, it will reflect poorly on the UA.

But that doesn’t change the fact that a few poor instructors could — and do — still sneak in here or there. Student responses to such a situation include trying to switch out of their class, teaching themselves the material or attending another professor’s lectures. These aren’t sure-fire solutions, and there is a way to more directly combat the issue: filling out Teacher-Course Evaluations at the end of the semester.

Lots of students dismiss these as a pointless waste of time. But TCEs are truly utilized by the university, and feedback about instructors is used as evidence for a teacher’s ability to teach successfully.

Think of it this way: if a teacher is unable to communicate effectively to students and this is dictated in the majority of TCEs, the university will likely see this as cause for concern and investigation.

But only a few negative reviews, which could come from student bias against an actually good instructor, or not enough completed evaluations for a poor instructor, will not have a great effect on the teacher’s situation. Surveys and evaluations only work if they have a large number of participants.

If we don’t utilize our ability to provide feedback, we might have to bite the bad-teacher bullet every semester. We all need to complete our TCEs when the time comes, especially if a critical flaw exists and the university should be alerted.

May the odds of getting good professors be ever in your favor, Wildcats.


Follow Rhiannon Bauer on Twitter.


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