Reflections on Quality University Teaching | By Whitney Fox

Here at the university we have many great professors and lecturers but sometimes you and the lecturer just aren’t compatible. It happens. You win some, you lose some. But what makes a good lecturer? Enthusiasm? Knowledge? A loud voice? It’s not easy to tell from RateMyProf that you’ll agree with the teaching method of a person’s lecture, but sometimes it’s just luck (or bad luck) that decides how the cards are dealt. All teachers have different styles, some like to test, others prefer assignments and lots of them include a lot of information over the course of a semester. But what’s the make or breaking point of a person’s lecture?

Let’s face it, we have amazing professors and lecturers here on campus. But with such a variety of teaching styles, there’s bound to be some conflict. I went around to students and asked them what qualities they liked in a lecturer and what qualities they didn’t like. They not only told me the qualities they like and dislike, but also shared stories and situations from their experiences over the semesters that stood out. They had some interesting things to say!

“I like it when they can entertain a tangent in lecture. In ENGL 124, we were studying poetry about the Titanic sinking, and somehow the conversation changed from a talk about poem structure to why it was “women and children first.” The following discussion became heated, but the lecturer just let the discussion roll along. I think it ended up helping our analysis in the end.” – Collin

“I appreciate it when they understand how it’s easy to get swallowed up in course work, so they give extensions on assignments and essays.” – John

“One of my professors showed up with candy on Halloween! It reminded me of elementary school, but it was refreshing to see a prof with such a great attitude.” – Ryan

“[I like] when they actually enjoy being there, and have cool stories related to their field. [I’m] not sure it exists for every subject though.” – Miriam

“[I prefer] professors that have clear speaking voices, and show organized step by step work. (This tends to be very helpful in engineering.) For instance my ENGG 130 prof last semester had a heavy accent, [he] was one of my better professors because his notes and work were very detailed but easy to follow. My PHYS 130 prof was even better because she was detailed and easy to understand both with speech and work.” – Brett

“I like professors that realize some things they say just go over our heads. There’s not much you can do about a lecturer who assumes you know a lot more than you actually do.” – Thomas

“I like it when lecturers pull in life examples, but not when they only pertain to one group of people. I had a lecturer that only gave examples in their lecture that pertained to the medical field. For engineers, literature majors and all the other students, we couldn’t really connect.” – Alyssa

“I hate it when lecturers don’t include the class’ opinions in their lecture. I have this one prof who just stands there and will ask questions, but doesn’t actually care what we have to say. He automatically answers his own questions. I feel like it would be more beneficial if he included us in these questions, it might make lectures less boring.” – Lauren

“I like ones that are quick with email, are understanding about missing classes for sports or being sick or whatever, and that make an effort to give students extra resources and help before exams.” – Keely

“Nothing makes me happier to sit in a lecture than a prof with a great sense of humor!” – Will

“Well prepared. It’s not so much that I like profs that are, but I really hate profs that seem disorganized and just overall not prepared for class. Also profs that show a little personality aren’t awful, with a few exceptions of course.” – Clayton

“I don’t like ones that don’t post [notes] online, or that are impossible to contact, or make the class easiest from their marking perspective rather than what would help the students the most. I’ve had a professor who is literally impossible to contact over email, phone and office hours and he wasted a lot of my time trying to get an exam deferred. It’s [also] difficult when you can’t understand the prof on top of not understanding material in the class too.” – Keely

“I don’t like it when profs pick favourites. I once asked a prof for an extension on an essay that I was struggling with, she denied me. The day that the essay was due I saw that one of my fellow classmates didn’t have anything to hand in. It turns out that my classmate had asked for an extension the day after I did and she was granted the extension on the grounds that she didn’t understand the material completely.” – Cheryl

“Some qualities that profs have that I hate are: rushing through the work, not going into detail with the work. I find we are then just trying to copy down the material more than trying to learn it, where upon we were just re-teaching ourselves later when we just got back home.” – Brett

“I dislike it when lecturers come to class and seem to hate being there even more than the rest of us. Show a little enthusiasm for your subject and maybe the class might be more active!” – Amrit

What is it that stands out in excellent teachers, in your eyes? Contribute your thoughts in the discussion below. 

CC photograph courtesy of “alykat” on Flickr.


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