What We Wish You Knew: Professors and Students Spill the Beans

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you have some connection to academia, as a professor, student, or administrator.

When you look back on your years teaching or learning, if you are like most people, you will have some complaints. There were probably some things that you took issue with, some things you wish your professors or students had known. The DHI decided to dig in and compile a list of common wishes. These were collected from personal anecdotes, online research, and social media.

What professors want their students to know…

  • Ask questions. Office hours are there for a reason. Yes, we have plenty of paperwork and grading to do, but we appreciate your initiative when you show up outside of class time.
  • We talk among ourselves. You’ll get a reputation, good or bad. Why not good?
  • Work hard. Need we say more?
  • Take responsibility for your success. We’re here to teach you, not to do your work for you.
  • If you’re having a problem with the class or getting your work done, talk to us. Don’t ignore the problem. We can’t always tell if there are issues outside of the classroom that affect your performance in class, and if you don’t let us know, we won’t be able to help you.
  • It’s OK to challenge us. But don’t be the person who talks just to hear their own voice and doesn’t have anything valid to contribute.
  • Ask a question not on the material covered but on a topic related to the material in either current events or recent research. It shows genuine interest and conceptual understanding of the class; not that you’re trying to just get a grade.
  • READ! We don’t assign the material without thinking it through, and if you don’t read what we assign, you won’t be able to participate in class discussions.
  • Professors aren’t interested in what you know,or rather what you can regurgitate. They want to know what you can DO. The time for being a sponge is past, in high school. Writing a paper? Show YOUR insight. Lab Practicuum? Show that you can work the damn lab. People somtimes seem to think if you just passively absorb info for four years you’ll walk out an expert. But what makes a true expert is their ability to DO.

Our own DHI Director, Claire Potter, weighs in: “I wish that students knew how many people and resources were available to help them with their digital and research needs. There is, of course, the Learning Center, but there is also the Digital Humanities Initiative (DHI) and, most importantly, the research desk at the library and the librarians at Special Collections. In addition, there is Lynda.com: when trying to find a digital tool to help solve a problem, going through Lynda.com to find that tool and learn to use it is a good process. Writing a paper or doing a creative project then has a value added: you have learned to use a new tool, which can then help you think about your next project or paper in more complex ways.”

What students want professors to know…

  • We’re already paying for tuition and housing and food and all the other expenses that come with attending college. Please stop assigning books or course materials that are expensive without giving us alternate options, like free PDF downloads or cheaper online versions.
  • Learning just about anything that is completely new takes time, effort, and most of all a sense of comfort. It could be a very simple concept, but nevertheless it always takes time and practice to actually not have anxiety about it. For that reason, it doesn’t hurt for a professor to slow down and emphasize any new or different things that he/she brings up for the very first time. Speeding through it because it might be fundamentally simple is excruciatingly confusing, and doesn’t give enough time to give a sense of comfort for the student.
  • We can’t love your subject unless you love it! If you’re bored teaching us, we’re definitely bored listening.
  • We know that for many professors, research is your main focus. Please pretend that you care about teaching, even if it’s not your favorite thing to do.
  • Especially with general education classes, some professors seemed to have little awareness of their students’ time and schedules. It’s not that I’m rushing the work because I didn’t care and waited until the last minute, it’s because you assigned an unreasonable due date and I barely have a schedule that allows adequate sleep as it is. Most of my professors were good about this, but you always get a few!

A note: we recognize that these experiences reflect mainly the views of on-campus students, and that the online experience can be much different. The online students we talked to said they wanted on-campus experiences, even though they take their classes online, since it can be hard for them to feel part of the university community.

If you have your own perspectives to share, feel free to email us and maybe you’ll be featured in an upcoming blog post!

Illustration by PhD Comics