Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Students on what frustrates them

A teaching note from the faculty center on my campus describes some recent studies about what students find to be the most frustrating instructor behaviors. The results from one student survey are below the fold. Anyone surprised by these results? What can we learn from them?:

An extensive study received about 1700 responses from 250 students concerning annoying instructor behavior (Kearney, Plax, Hays, & Ivy, 1991). The researchers coded the responses into 28 categories, which can further be categorized into about five major classes of problem behavior:

• a variety of disorganized behaviors

• lack of feedback on student work

• poorly designed coursework or unprofessional content delivery

• disrespect towards students, including unfairness, discourtesy, or even abusive behavior

• professional misconduct, including not keeping up with the field

Other, newer, studies pretty much concur with the 1991 study. Disorganization is the most disruptive behavior on the part of an instructor, and can take a few different forms:

• Giving rambling or incoherent lectures

• Changing due dates

• Losing student materials

• Lack of awareness about issues outside class that affect students

Other researchers took a positive tack, asking students about helpful instructor behaviors: “giving lectures that are clear and well-organized” was the top helpful behavior no matter how students were sorted (by major, sex, year in program, achievement level).

Other helpful behaviors included:

• Helping students prepare for exams by giving review sessions

• Providing prompt feedback on student work

• Collecting and responding to student feedback about the class

• Providing examples of excellent work

Number 10 on the top 10 helpful list was “Having group discussion activities in class.” (Oh well, at least it made the top 10.)

These results are actually quite heartening, because the top problems (or helpful behaviors) are closely related to student learning. Organization and clarity are the top factors impacting student learning. Rapport and stimulation of interest are important but not as important as organization and clarity (Feldman, 1998). Students like rapport and stimulation of interest, of course, but it does not affect their learning to the extent that clear, organized coursework does.


  1. Yes, this was very helpful and hopeful. Thanks for posting it.

  2. I have often wondered if the key to changing teacher behavior is to educate students to demand more.

    How many teachers who behave in these ways are going to likely change because the students find the behaviors frustrating?

  3. Mike, this is a great post. Thanks for sharing it.



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