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Professors, Take Note: 8 Observations from Steamed Students

Along with the phrase “Go Bison!,” Dean Bresciani has said North Dakota State is a “student-focused, land-grant, research university” approximately a billion times during his tenure as president.

Check out our university’s social media presence. We love to tote our #studentfocus and #NDSUtru-thiness, and for good reason.

The university rightly brags: Carnegie puts us in the top 108 for best schools in the nation; we accept four out of five admission applicants (staying true to our inclusive, land-grant history); and we have faculty on the leading edge of research projects.

These esteemed researchers also teach, which can sometimes feel like an afterthought. That’s unacceptable, especially when we pride our student-focus-ness so much.

We know you’re busy, but at NDSU, a public university founded for the student, faculty members need to be teachers first. You wouldn’t be here without us, the aspiring students who fork over tens of thousands of dollars to have a seat in your classroom. Remember that.

Through the 210 credit hours we’ve accumulated together, we’ve seen the good and the bad. Don’t get us wrong — some of our favorite, most inspiring educators teach here, a fact that makes us prouder than any old sports team could.

But then you run into “teachers” that, alas, shouldn’t be anywhere near a classroom.

So today, we offer advice. Here are eight observations, professors, that you can start implementing as soon as your next 8 a.m.

  1. Make assigned reading sparse, effective

Let’s take a moment to realize how many pages a couple chapters can tally. Now multiply this by four or five courses. Sorry, we don’t have 10 extra hours laying around today.

Good educators know to push their students, but they do so in a realistic way. Students will suffer burnout and will stop reading altogether if the reading is too dense or simply too much.

Of course, reading is no substitute for good teaching.

But if you do choose to make us read and purchase/rent/steal a required book, for the love of God, make good use of it.

  1. Use of shame tactics does not work

It’s fine to have standards to hold your students accountable. When we ultimately fail you, which will happen, don’t take it personally.

You’re a professional.

When we have questions that may seem tedious to you, remember that we are taking your class for a reason. If you make us feel inferior, trust us, we’ll stop asking questions altogether.

Your doctoral degree does not bestow upon thee the right to be an asshole.

  1. It’s 2015. Learn Blackboard

You find using Blackboard troublesome and time-consuming? You don’t know how to use the Internet?

We’re not in 1999 anymore. Tough. Learn to love it.

Students rely on Blackboard to keep schedules straight and keep tabs on their grades. Those grades, by the way, need to be known to students in a timely and accessible fashion.

Blackboard offers this. Use it.

In fact, knowing where we’re at in your class will save you time in the long run. With proper use of Blackboard, we won’t have to send incessant emails requesting information to which we should already have access.

  1. Going through the motions does not work

Showing up to class day after day, week after week, year after year, and lecturing to the students in front of you is tired and inefficient.

Even if you have the intrigue of many TedX speakers (which we haven’t quite come across yet), your lectures are more likely to cause your students to check out than cling to the edge of their seats.

We want to engage.

We want to lead.

We want to feel like a part of the discussion rather than a part of the audience.

  1. Update your materials

Whether you’ve been teaching for two or 20 years, you need to keep your teaching materials relevant and timely.

We don’t want to read content from the ’80s if newer, more relatable cases are available.

We don’t want to work with visual materials that make us cringe.

We want to see the relevance of what we’re learning, and if you’re using the same examples from years before we were born, it’s going to be difficult to see the relevancy.

  1. Learn the most basic of teaching pedagogy

“Those who can’t, teach” is the stupidest adage in existence. Ineffective professors, however, are the reason this saying sticks around.

You could be the most decorated professor in the land, but a doctoral degree does not teach.

Give us instead the master’s student with an educational background or the lowly grad student who grasps the basic strategies of the classroom.

And teach to the skills needed outside the university setting.

Academia certainly has its perks, but keep in mind the majority of the students who enter your classroom won’t end up in your shoes. Most of us are here to learn skills we can apply to the industry in which we plan to work.

  1. Work together with your colleagues, departments

Interdisciplinary work is common at NDSU. Don’t make it difficult for us who dabble with double majors or minors.

The college experience is all about learning as much as possible during the short time we’re here. Accommodation and communication are keys to success. Please don’t hinder us as we follow our passions.

  1. Be passionate

Speaking of which, let’s reiterate: If you don’t care, we won’t, either. You could be the best and brightest professor in the profession, but it won’t matter.

Having a dose of zealousness will take you far. You’re teaching at a fantastic student-focused institution.

And you’re smart! If you’ve never learned the nuances of educational pedagogy and philosophy, the time is now.

Learn up and get excited. Otherwise, get out of our way.

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