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How a bad instructor or education affected YOU!

  1. Apr 9, 2009 #1


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    I think it would be beneficial to students beginning or getting towards the beginning of their college careers if we shared how bad professors or poor college careers affected our lives. Since I'm only a grad student, i can only share the former.

    For example, the professor upper-division quantum professor who was too good for his students. We had a professor who was rarely at his office hours and according to some people, believed the students weren't up to his level so he wasn't obligated to put in much effort. Now QM is quite a different subject... and being able to discuss such a strange topic with a different form of math then one's use to with a professor is key, at least to me. Thankfully, I was chummy with the chair of the department and he was able to help me better understand the seemingly un-understandable!

    Another classic example was the professor who was "easy!". The problem was that he explicitly told the students that the test was going to have homework questions on them. He literally picked problems from the homework and put them right on the test verbatim. Now we thought wow, sweet, easy class right? Well, I of course, got a D in the class so i decided I wasn't cut out to take the 2nd semester of the class so i waited to do it over the next year. Well the class that did the 2nd semester with him eventually graduated and they went into the grad program. It was a disaster. They came into the class unprepared and simply not up to par with what they should know and it was a miserable experience for them. Moral of the story? If you're planning on attending grad school, you'll pay many times over for any shortcut you try to take in your undergrad education!

    Anyone else have experiences/lessons to teach prospective undergrads/high school students? I know I wish I could have gone back into the past with a few choice lessons...
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 9, 2009 #2
    Sure. How was I to know my advisor was sleeping with the undergrades for grades?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 9, 2009
  4. Apr 9, 2009 #3
    When I was in High School, I took AP psychology. The instructor had never taught an AP class before, and she was a former kindergarden teacher which was reflected in her methods. She literally did not teach us one damn thing the entire year. The most rigorous thing she had us do was either play with playdough or watch a cat flush a toilet on youtube (these activities were not abnormal in this class).

    I wish I had done research into the instructor before taking the class. I also wish I had known that taking AP classes would be much less useful than running start, especially with some of my teachers.
  5. Apr 9, 2009 #4
    Lucky advisor...:!!)
  6. Apr 9, 2009 #5
    I had many more good professors than bad, but I can sum up the effect that the bad ones had on me very simply. They had no effect at all.

    When I had a bad professor, I just learned the material some other way - books, journals, friends, stuggling on my own etc......

    Never let negative people bring you down. Find a way around the problem. If you have more than 1/3 of your professors as bad, then you need a new school because it's just too hard if they gang up on you, and you should get value for your tuition.
  7. Apr 9, 2009 #6


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    Yep. I have tons of holes gaping in my education and almost 50 credits worth of time taken away from me. roughly 1.5 years of my life stolen =D
  8. Apr 9, 2009 #7


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    Well said.

    This thread might be more constructive if people were to give examples of specific things they've done when they've encountered poor teaching - or at least, perhaps, teaching styles that conflicted with the way they learn.
  9. Apr 9, 2009 #8


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    In Freshman Engineering, we were plunked into a calculus class that proceeded twice as fast as that taken by most other students (including my pre-med roommate). The class was at 8:00 am, and was taught by a middle-aged asst. prof. who was not a morning person, to say the least. He would not teach concepts. He would trundle up to the blackboard and work through a problem while talking to the board, and not bother to point out new concepts from the text. Invariably, a few times each class another student (who LOVED math and had worked out all the problems in the text) would interrupt and point out a mistake, at which point, the instructor would say "Oh, yes. Just a mistake in the algebra." and erase the whole problem without giving students the chance to see how the mistake arose or how to arrive at a correct answer. I used to have to go to that fellow student for help sometimes, because the instructor was rarely available during office-hours and he was dismissive and rude when he was there. Some people should not be instructors - they can do a great deal of damage, especially when their students are in demanding fields with a lot of future classes predicated on successfully mastering the course in question.
  10. Apr 9, 2009 #9
    In my case, it probably helped reinforce my career choice in the sciences:

    My World History teacher in high school had us memorize a set of dates, memorize his list of important people according to the info he listed, and memorize his definitions of things such as "European diffusion","cross-culturalism" etc. On his tests we were just to write out these definitions, lists, fill in the peoples names or the dates... :mad: I'd ace the tests, but refused to study for the semester-end exams (which I got B+'s on without reviewing the material).

    oooh... and I forgot to mention... I think he got by with this pedagogy because he was also the wrestling coach (where our school had a pretty highly ranked team). :grumpy:

    In contrast, my final year of school, I had an independent study in the science department, where my chemistry and physics teachers mentored my project -- extracting DNA and doing electrophoresis analysis. I had to massively repair/rebuild the electrophoresis kit my chemistry teacher had because it melted down the first day I had something to analyze! Way more fun. :biggrin: I would work on this in a scheduled period each day... and sometimes during my physics class as well, since I could learn the textbook material fine on my own.

    The other physics classes I usually spent taking apart overhead projectors and salvaging the optics and electronics... where I first learned how transformers worked by switching the leads on a step-down transformer, making it a step-up transformer! :surprised Boom, Pop! A brief period of blue flames on the desk! WAY more fun! :rofl:

    Even though my next history teacher for AP American History, (and then even later my professor in college for a special honors history seminar) were engaging and used better pedagogy -- including essay tests -- it was too late to turn things around.
  11. Apr 9, 2009 #10
    My two high school physics teachers made me hate physics.
  12. Apr 10, 2009 #11


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    It sounds like you would probably get the worse of the consequences despite the grade you may have received in the second semester or how much better at quantum you were relative to the students who stayed for the second semester because a D in Quantum is a fairly big blemish on a grad school application.
  13. Apr 10, 2009 #12


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    This was classical mechanics in upper division :). I'm already in the masters program (not a phd granting university) so it doesn't seem to have worked out too badly. If I'm correct, being able to do better at the graduate classical mechanics course will outweigh that D if i do decide to go to a phd program whereas the students to continued with that professor had real problems when they faced the graduate version of the course.
  14. Apr 10, 2009 #13


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    Well as far as I can tell I pay my tuition fees for the right to take the exams in the end and to get a credit for the course.
    I really have had a mixture of lecturers.

    My lecturers in Topology and Complex Analysis 1 were the worst, I just learnt on my own from textbooks, and ofcourse I myself have gaps in my knowledge.
    Well, for the topology course I really can't blame the lecturer, he told us that the course would span across 6 weeks so I had the chance to flee out of there, but didn't do it.
    At least this experience toughend me, I mean learning from 900 until 2000 with no gaps in between for two days can break you eventually (and it did).
  15. Apr 10, 2009 #14
    Had a ODEs professor who was really old and spoke really softly into the board. He also wrote illegibly, and had a habit of erasing something soon after he wrote it so as to not switch to another board. I stopped going to lectures after around the second week, just reading the book and stuff I found online, and it worked out allright.
  16. Apr 10, 2009 #15


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    A good grade in a class that you did awful in the prerequisite I do not think makes your bad grade dissappear it mitigates damage but doesnt make it null. Masters programs are just not as competitive. Getting into PhD is a totaly different beast then Masters. The students might have to play catch up in their PhD programs but there is no reason to assume they will fail out or anything but either way they are past the hurdle of obtaining the opportunity to be in a PhD program which probably means they are funded too.
  17. Apr 10, 2009 #16


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    They're all in the same masters program at my university.
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