When your professor can’t teach: A Sheaf survival guide

By in Opinions

University of Saskatchewan students have all had — or will eventually have — a professor that is poor at teaching. Despite this roadblock that hinders the learning process, there are ways for students to utilize alternative measures in the pursuit of educational success.

Before you’re quick to judge your professor’s teaching style, it’s important to re-evaluate your own behaviour within the classroom and how it may affect your learning. If you’re distracted on your phone or laptop during lectures, don’t regularly attend class and/or fail to actively listen, consider that the problem may not necessarily be the professor — it might be you.

Once you’ve identified any inhibitions in your learning that aren’t related to your professor, the next step is to critically assess the factors that make your professor a poor teacher and what you can do about it.

If you don’t understand the course content being covered in your class, or if you can readily identify problems in your professor’s teaching style, bear in mind that unnamed-6professors are there to assist in your learning experience. By simply sending an email or flagging them down after class, professors can generally be helpful when directly addressed. 

Does your professor teach too fast or too slow? Does your professor fail to break down dense topics? Communicate with your professor and let them know. Most often, they may not be conscious of these quirks and will be receptive to your questions or concerns.

So you’ve done all you can to bridge the learning gap with your professor, but you still see no improvement, or may even notice a delineation in the amount of information that you understand and retain after lectures.

Unfortunately, once you’ve concluded that your professor cannot teach, this means that you have to increase your studying time outside of the classroom to compensate for what you’re not learning in class.

First off, I recommend going through the class material independently. Use your in-class notes and slideshows in addition to supplementary materials such as your textbook and Google to try and make sense of the content.

To reduce the overall burden of cramming you’ll face before finals, I would devote time after each lecture to going through the material and organizing it in a cohesive fashion. Utilize the studying techniques that you know work best for you to keep track of information through flash cards, sticky notes or highlighters, or by making study notes.

Once you’ve tried to sift through and understand the material, try convening in a study group with other classmates. Whether you study better on your own or with others, study groups are helpful for circulating ideas and the collective struggle provides an obscure sense of reassurance that you’re not in this alone.

Once you’ve formed a study group, there are many tools available that are helpful for groups. Campus libraries offer study rooms which can be booked through the U of S library website. Not only do study rooms provide a quiet bubble for you and your classmates to work in, but they have whiteboards and markers which are helpful for writing out ideas, formulas and equations.

In addition, websites such as Google provide helpful applications for collaboration. If you create a Google Doc online and add everyone in your study group by email, everyone can add their own notes to the document that are accessible to anyone in the group.

If neither independent nor group studying is effective for you, Student Learning Services offers structured study sessions for many introductory level courses, as well as one-on-one tutoring.

If you find that you’re still doing poorly in class despite your efforts to succeed, there are other ways to speak out against your professor.

End of term course evaluations provide the opportunity for you to unleash the frustration that has been building up throughout the entire semester.

Alternatively, you can go directly to the dean of the specific college of the course you’re in and voice your grievances. While it is not certain whether or not disciplinary action will be taken, taking action ensures more promising results than being passive does.

A bad professor doesn’t need to be the end of the world, and hopefully with these tips it won’t be!

Jessica Quan

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor