Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Things we do as professors that drive students crazy

I am often privy to information from students about the things we do as professors without realizing they are driving students crazy.  If I hear it from just one student, I figure it might be an individual misunderstanding or problem.  But when I hear it repeated by multiple students, I assume that the concern is genuine.  

Whenever students mention a legitimate area of frustration, I try to take note so that I will not do the same thing in my own courses and drive my own students nuts!   Over my years at different law schools, I have accumulated a list of the "crazy-makers" that have gotten multiple mentions:

  • Regularly mumbling or speaking so softly that at least 1/3 of the lecture hall cannot hear the professor - and then refusing to use the microphone when students get up the courage to ask for that solution.
  • E-mailing or posting lengthy reading assignments the night before or the day of class so that students cannot predict their workload and organize their work efficiently and effectively in light of other coursework, deadlines, and commitments.
  • Posting office hours and regularly not being there for them - and then not posting makeup hours or scheduling other individual times to see students.
  • Scheduling an appointment with a student to go over a paper/exam that the professor has and then not being able to find it, resulting in a re-schedule.
  • Assigning class seats alphabetically (instead of letting students choose) so that students are in seat locations inappropriate for their learning styles or disabilities - and then not allowing students to relocate when other seats are available.
  • Regularly answering every student question about something the professor just stated with the exact same statement that was not understood by the questioner the first time.
  • Banning laptops for all students when some students learn better with a laptop because of their learning styles or disabilities - and making no adjustments in how the course is taught from previous semesters to take into account that students are handwriting notes.. 
  • Requiring other presentations, workshops, or section meetings without adequate warning so that students must cancel long-scheduled appointments or decide which of two requirements they will attend.
  • Announcing that there will be an "open code or rule book" exam early in the semester and then a few days before announcing that there can be no writing/highlighting in the book so that students who have learned by annotating and highlighting must buy a new book for the exam. 
  • Not providing any practice questions to the class or old exams for the law school database so that students are unable to use appropriate study strategies for that professor's unique exam style.
  • Telling the students in class what the exam formats will be and then giving an exam including different formats.
  • Telling the students in class that a particular topic will not be on the exam and then testing on that topic.
  • Testing only on the last two weeks of the semester's material when students have been told that the exam will be comprehensive covering the entire semester.
  • Returning a first assignment of the same type after the second similar assignment was due so that the students had no feedback and opportunity to adjust their performance accordingly.
  • Changing the instructions significantly for a paper or memo after students have already completed work under the initial instructions so that those hours of work are totally wasted.

We all have realizations during teaching that "I'll never do that again."  We have the final determination of how to run our courses.  However, we can hopefully learn not only from our own insights but also from our students' legitimate reactions to what we do.  (Amy Jarmon)

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