What to Look for When Selecting Professors

Aug 02, 2011

Having the right professors can be a key factor in making sure students are maximizing their learning and increasing their chances of excelling in their courses. Exactly what qualities should students look at when selecting their professors?

By Jessica Lyons

Many college students want to know if their professors will be easy graders or possibly give light amounts of homework. But there are other qualities students should be on the lookout for.

Teaching Style

What way do you learn best? Do you benefit more from lectures, discussion groups, visual aids or interactive activities, among other methods? Once you know how you like to learn, investigate your school's professors to see which ones have a teaching style that most closely matches your learning preferences. You're likely to do better in a class that's taught in a way that makes the most sense to you.

Homework Assignments and Test Methods

Some students feel their knowledge is tested best through multiple choice questions while others prefer essay questions. When it comes to homework, for example, students could also have a preference between class discussions to go over readings or having to write reflection papers. You can also try to find out the coursework professors require to see if any have the methods you think are the best for reinforcing your learning.

Personality

Your ability to connect with a professor could make a difference in how you end up feeling about the course. Do you want someone who's all business and gets right to the point, or do you like teachers who are a little more relaxed and even have a sense of humor during classes? Try to find a teacher whose personality will mesh with yours to help you enjoy and even look forward to going to your classes.

Availability Out of Class

Sometimes you may want to talk to your professor outside of the class, whether it's to make sure you're going in the right direction for a research paper or to go over a concept you don't entirely understand. If that's the case, you'll want to take courses with professors who make themselves available either after class, during office hours or through e-mail and are very responsive to students who reach out to them.

Background

Just like you'd want to know a doctor's professional background before making an appointment, you might benefit from knowing your professor's background before registering for his or her class. For example, if you're taking a journalism class, you might want to learn from a professor with experience working at magazines instead of one who's worked for newspapers. It helps to know what area of expertise you'll benefit from the most because such professors might provide you with better connections you'll need after graduating.

Willingness to Stay Connected

Even after you finish a class, there are a lot of benefits to staying in touch with professors, since they could act as mentors or help you with networking opportunities to benefit your future career. Ask around to see if the professor you're thinking of taking a class with is the type who develops lasting relationships with his or her students and remains in touch semesters and even years later.

Find out more about making the most out of professor office hours.


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