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The Student-Professor Dynamic

26 Jan

The first week of school is always the best. You go to class, get the syllabus, and leave early. More than likely, most students don’t have all of their books yet; others are still adjusting their schedules, adding and dropping classes here and there; and running late is excused, since we are all getting used to the new semester.

But “syllabus week” isn’t all fun and games. The information shared by professors during this week is actually quite valuable. There is a reason that professors include their office hours and contact information on syllabi. We decided to take a closer look at what professors expect from students outside of class.

Dr. Oseroff-Varnell, Communication

Q: What kind of relationship do you aim to have with students inside and outside the classroom?  What do you do to move toward this relationship?  What do you hope/ suggest that students do to form this relationship?  

I like to get to know students individually so that I can tailor my teaching to the different students in each class. If I know students’ interests, I use examples that relate to those interests.  If I can create a classroom atmosphere that is inclusive and non-threatening, the whole class will benefit. Outside the classroom, my goal is to be someone students can talk to about academic concerns, personal goals, or any life issues. The only way that I can develop this kind of relationship with students is if they come and talk to me outside of class. It’s better to have the chance to talk in my office or meet for coffee than to try to deal with individual issues during class time.

Q: As a professor, how do you think that students’ efforts to connect with the professor outside the classroom can help the students’ performance?

Students who take the time to ask clarifying questions, tell me about their learning disability, talk about majoring in Communication, or just chat about something that is going on at home are letting me get to know them on a more personal level. The more I know about them, the more I can work with them to address any academic or personal concerns they may have.

Q: What is your advice to students about how they can choose the proper resource to answer the questions they may have?  

The first thing a student should do (and you would be surprised at how many students don’t do this) is to read through any written instructions the professor gives. Then, depending on the question or concern, I would tell students to start with the instructor—the TA or the professor—for clarification of any assignments. In terms of resources, students should know their weaknesses and seek whatever help they feel they need. TheWritingCenteris great for working on structure and clarity of ideas; theLearningAssistanceCentercan help with study skills; the reference librarians are very knowledgeable in helping with research; and professors may offer review sessions specific to a given class. The more students invest in the learning process, the more benefits they will reap.

Professor Lubin, Art History

Q: What kind of relationship do you aim to have with students inside and outside the classroom?  What do you do to move toward this relationship?  What do you hope/ suggest that students do to form this relationship?  

I try to get my students excited about the subject we’re studying and make sure they stay that way though the semester.  I’m convinced that if they see how art of the past speaks with relevance to our present-day lives, they’ll never lose that enthusiasm.  So I try to keep the classroom a happy, relaxed place where the encounter with art is provocative and fun.

Q: As a professor, how do you think that students’ efforts to connect with the professor outside the classroom can help the students’ performance?

Any effort you make to connect with your professor outside the classroom will tend to help your performance within it, even if the conversation has little to do with the subject matter of the course. That’s because in getting to know a professor and allowing that professor to know you, you’re becoming more grown-up, less juvenile, in your approach to education and knowledge-transmission. A key to success in life is finding the right mentors, and your professors are a great place to start.

Q: What is your advice to students about how they can choose the proper resource to answer the questions they may have?  

This is small, relatively intimate university. Most professors atWakeForestlove to teach and to interact with students. If you’re having problems with a class — you’re not doing well on assignments, you’re timid about raising your hand, you find the course material difficult to grasp  — go to the professor and ask for guidance. He or she will be pleased to see you take initiative and will help you come up with solutions.

Wake Forest University 2009 Commencement: Biology professor Peter Weigl congratulates one of his students. Photo courtesy of WFU News Center, Flickr.

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Posted by on January 26, 2012 in Strategies

 

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