Monday, February 6, 2012

Professors, ideal versus typical

I'd be curious to hear reactions to a survey described by Maryellen Weimer. The survey asked college juniors and seniors to ascribe various characteristics to the "ideal professor" and to their experience of the "typical professor". Results below:

Teaching CharacteristicIdealTypical
Professor speaks clearly/not monotone9380
Course and daily goals appear on the syllabus8352
Students have a voice; input on course policies and procedures407
Professor talks informally with students sometimes4315
Professor lectures7893
Professor uses discussion5837
Professor does in-class activities/demonstrations5721
·Uses humor often/occasionally
·Uses humor occasionally only
·Cheating/plagiarism policy—investigates and resolves incidents
·Do not know what approach is used to deal with academic dishonesty
Solicits anonymous, written, informal feedback on teaching/course6817
·Solicits student feedback two or more times per term
·Never solicits student feedback

There's a whole lot of interesting stuff here: You could, for instance, use the items with the greatest discrepancies as surrogates for those behaviors that would likely improve your student evaluations. It sounds like students' having a voice on course policies and procedures, soliciting feedback, and talking informally with students are areas where we could perhaps improve.

But... as Weimer notes, the crucial question is whether the students' "ideal professor" is ideal as doing his or her job, to wit, inducing learning:

The question not answered by this research is whether the characteristics identified as ideal have any bearing on student learning. Based on other research, it is probably safe to say that most of the characteristics don’t cause learning but they may make it a more likely outcome of a classroom experience.
Reference: Epting, L. K., Zinn, T. E., Buskist, C. and Buskist, W. (2004). Students perspectives on the distinction between ideal and typical teachers. Teaching of Psychology, 31 (3), 181-183)

1 comment:

  1. I find it interesting that students seem to prefer lecture to discussion. I wasn't expecting that at all. I always feel my students zone when I go on too long, so I always try to solicit discussion (nless class size is >100).


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