A professor of mine last semester spent each class reading his slide show to us. The tests were based on the slides, which were online, so there was no point in going to class, besides to sign the attendance sheet. I nearly slept through all the classes and never took notes. I got an A.

I shouldn’t be able to put that little effort in and still ace the course.

But many students do just enough for the grade. Roughly half of college students nationwide learn almost nothing in their first two years, according to a recent report based on the College Learning Assessment.

This wasn’t true for my first years, but I still could have learned more. Not all professors challenge students in early courses, and it’s very obvious when they don’t care.

The same can be said about students.

But is it the students’ fault for not spending enough time studying or professors’ for not expecting enough of the students?

Both.

In any type of relationship, it can be difficult to make an effort if the other party isn’t reciprocating. Students and professors should be held accountable for not doing their job.

Sure we do course evaluations, but those aren’t till the end of the year. Students should tell their professor if the teaching isn’t up to snuff, and professors should be teaching with the assumption that students want to learn — even if it isn’t the case.

Many students will respond if challenged. Professors should teach courses that force students to stretch themselves and not just give a bare minimum of effort. In turn, professors might feel more fulfilled and USM will improve its standing in the higher education community.

We’re paying you to teach us, not read a slide show and test us on it later.

When I pitched this issue around the office, everybody seemed to have an anecdote: The music appreciation course that’s used primarily as a smoke break for one professor or the western civilization class where a history department veteran lets the students craft the final exam questions and then leaves the room.

If some introductory classes provide no more than a grade on a transcript, then what are we paying for? The college experience?

Other students I’ve talked to have complained about taking too many core curriculum classes. Although this is true at times, people go to a liberal arts college to receive a liberal arts eduction. Maybe some students belong at a trade school instead. And some just aren’t mature enough when they enter college.

But this shouldn’t change the way a professor teaches college students. Worry about the students who want to learn. We pay for the classes. And we go to them (most of the time). Teach us.

By the time college rolls around, the water wings should be off. Professors should be pushing students in the deep end and hoping they can swim. Some will drown or drop out, and their tuition dollars will go down with them. Others may flail a bit, and professors should still help them out.

Just don’t put me in the shallow end.

1 COMMENT

  1. Anyone who would complain about these things should at least name the offending professors. If you’re so keen on academics than why are you at USM, why didn’t you get into a better school?

    • Barbie,

      From the findings of the College Learning Assessment, it’s clear that USM isn’t alone in having this problem. There are many offending professors, and the point of this article isn’t to single anyone out, but to call for an attitude shift.

      Many intelligent, driven, and academic-minded people chose to be at USM because they want a solid education without bankrupting themselves with absurdly inflated $40,000-a-semester tuition at ostensibly better schools.

      In fact, these driven people are extraordinary in that they succeed without the excessive coddling of private universities, and can make it on their own despite the poor standards and dismal attitude exemplified by you and some professors.

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