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A Guide to Getting Along With Your Instructor for College Students

Getting to know your professors and other instructors can have many benefits. Most of them are interesting people and knowledgeable about many topics beyond their own discipline. You may discover that you have common interests that can be the basis for a good relationship long after you have finished the course. You may also find that a particular field is much more interesting to you than you previously thought because you have made the effort to interact with your instructor. It is not unusual for decisions about college majors to originate with a good student-professor relationship. Finally, professors may have information about special opportunities like summer internships, competitive awards, graduate programs, etc. that you might overlook. A professor who knows you may be the key to your becoming aware of these special opportunities.

Attend class: Professors may say they donít care about class attendance. Donít believe it. They notice whoís there and whoís not. Showing up communicates that you care about the subject and validates the instructor's position as mentor.

Sit in front: It's easier to hear, easier to pay attention and easier to "read" the instructor's cues as to what information is important. It's also easier for the instructor to notice that you are engaged with the material.

Arrive on time: Nothing will create a bad impression as much as causing a disturbance. If your instructor reacts badly to tardy students it might be better to skip the class entirely than to incur his or her wrath.

Be courteous in class: This doesn't mean that you have to agree with everything the instructor or your fellow students say. Sometimes the best class discussions are the result of disagreement. What is necessary is that the participants are not hostile, demanding or treating each other in a derogatory manner. Instructors appreciate students who participate in a calm respectful manner, no matter what they have to say.

Turn in assignments on time: You want the professor to know who you are for the right reasons. There is a definite relationship between students who do poorly on tests, receive low final grades, or fail courses, and those who turn assignments in late. Not to mention that your instructor is on a schedule too and having to read and grade late assignments will infringe on that schedule.

Give your instructor some slack: Most professors are experts in their fields. Many of them are not experts in psychometrics or applied learning. Realizing that very few of them have had formal training in test construction or in how to teach may help you to understand their occasional shortcomings in these areas. Most good professors have gotten that way by trial and error. Improved teaching often depends on the kind of feedback they receive from students. Avoid being negative in your comments. Specific, positive, constructive feedback can really improve the learning situation.

Contest grades in a calm logical manner: Grades are another area in which professors and students sometimes disagree. Never discuss a grade when you are angry. A test may have seemed unfair to you, but donít label it as such when youíre discussing it with the professor. Be specific but courteous when making your points. Remember, regardless of how skillful your arguments are, the odds are that your grade wonít be changed on that particular test. But, if you make your points well, the next test may be much better constructed and may seem to you to be a fairer measure of your knowledge of the material.

Attend office hours: Regardless of your interest in the course, make an appointment to see each of your instructors. This should not just be a courtesy call. It's purpose is to further your understanding of what is going on in the class. Take the following steps to enhance the appointment.

  • Preview the course materials to familiarize yourself with the topics for the rest of the term.
  • Review your notes to find topics and issues you want clarification on.
  • Write down three or four questions about the course.  What are potential topics for papers or projects? Which material is especially relevant and should be concentrated on? What is the most effective way to study the material?

Recommended Reading

Once Upon a Campus By Supurna Banerjee
  • Item#: 30222402
  • ISBN: 9780743251853
  • Published: by Simon and Schuster
About Once Upon A Campus:
Culled from the testimonies of hundreds of current students and recent grads across the US, this guide will give you the inside scoop on how to thrive in college. Whether you're a freshman or graduating senior, you'll learn how to make your experience fun, exciting and rewarding. From coping with roomies to navigating the social scene, find out what college is truly like through the wisdom and mistakes of the experts.

Practical insights on what professors and teacher's assistants really want.

Stress-saving advice on how to manage your finances.

Sharp pointers on selecting courses, schedules, and majors.

Invaluable survival tips from Kaplan's college gurus.

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