Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Professor wasting lecture time

  1. Feb 15, 2014 #1

    Dembadon

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I have a professor who typically spends, on average, about a third of each lecture pontificating about his personal life or university politics. I respect his knowledge and he's overall a very helpful educator, but I get very irritated when I think about how much we're not covering during his soapbox sessions.

    I've thought about mentioning it during office hours, but I'm not sure how to bring something like this up without offending him. Do I need to just suck-it-up and deal with it?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 15, 2014 #2
    Depends on a lot of things to be honest, if I were paying for education and would have to stand lectures like these I would immediately put him in his place if I didn't like the teacher or explain in a contructive-criticism-manner to remind himself what he's at school for. At any rate, do not just deal with it, if you don't like something, you can leave the class or speak up.
     
  4. Feb 15, 2014 #3

    Dembadon

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I usually do speak up, but this would be the first time I've had to do it with a professor, and I'm a little concerned about burning any unnecessary bridges as I approach the final year of my degree.
     
  5. Feb 15, 2014 #4

    AlephZero

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    First get your facts nailed down: specific dates, and measured timings. If it's one long rant, that is easier to measure than comments tagged onto every sentence, of course. You might even go as far as a hidden audio recorder.

    Personally, I would probably prefer to take this to somebody else rather than challenge the lecturer directly with it.

    The other way, if you are smart enough, is "mockery" in asking questions, etc - e.g. waste 10 minutes asking a convoluted question about something in one of the irrelevant digressions, mixed in with bits of your own life story ... :devil:
     
  6. Feb 15, 2014 #5

    jtbell

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I suggest you talk to the department chairman about this. It would probably help if you could get a few other students in his class(es) who agree with you to go with you. Also, make some quick notes during class (or immediately afterwards) including timings so you have something specific to present. Set up an appointment to talk with him in person about it; don't do it just via a group e-mail.

    An occasional few minutes of chitchat and off-topic ramblings is one thing. A third of the period, regularly, is something else.
     
  7. Feb 15, 2014 #6

    dlgoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    May I ask what class this professor is teaching? I have a different take on this "problem" as I would expect getting an education could include his pontifications.
     
  8. Feb 15, 2014 #7

    AlephZero

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Sometimes it can be entertaining. I can remember a math course in analysis, where the lecturer (who looked old enough to have been taught calculus by Newton) had an absolute and utter hatred of applied math, and an even greater hatred of mathematical economics. Five minutes of political incorrectness on those subjects was often the best part of the lecture. And understanding exactly what was wrong with some of the "proofs" attributed to his sworn enemies could be educational, as well.

    But 1/3 of a lecture of personal ramblings is something else.
     
  9. Feb 15, 2014 #8

    SteamKing

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    If you are going to strike the king, kill the king.

    The OP never gave much description about the course taught by his windy professor or about the professor himself. Does the prof have tenure? Was this a key course in the OP's field, or was it some elective?

    IMO, at the university level, there's no guarantee that a professor is obligated to lecture on point X% of the time, which is why TAs and graduate students often do the heavy lifting in the actual teaching duties. However, if you think your final grade in the course can be helped by having the prof. give you the stink eye, go for it and make a report.
     
  10. Feb 15, 2014 #9

    lisab

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    This is a long shot, but is the class doing exceptionally well? Maybe if everyone is beyond the professor's expectations, he feels he has time to meander.

    But, I suspect this is not the case - he's probably just being nostalgic. I had a prof once who would do this, not 1/3 of the class but close. Whenever his name would come up in a group of current or former students, their would be a chorus: "When I was as MIT...", which is how be began all his "good old days" stories.

    He was a good guy, but yeah, it got old.
     
  11. Feb 15, 2014 #10

    Choppy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    One option you have is to simply ask course-specific questions if this professor goes off on a tangent. It is possible the guy doesn't even realize he's doing it.
     
  12. Feb 18, 2014 #11
    If he's not covering stuff then ask him questions about it *before* he starts rambling, and at the end of the lecture. Then, go out the door and down the corridor discussing it, and arrange to meet him outside the lecture to discuss it some more.

    That way you will comes across as keen, and he might be encouraged to keep on topic! If you complain directly, you might upset him, and you don't want to upset professors. You can irritate them by asking lots of *on topic* questions, when they would rather talk politics, but they can't complain about that kind of irritation! One side of them is likely to admire it, and you'll be remembered as that "really keen" chap, rather than a "nasty piece of work" in the political discussions in the staff room.
     
  13. Feb 18, 2014 #12

    Dembadon

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Thank you for your input everyone. I spoke with the department chair about it. Hopefully things'll change.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Professor wasting lecture time
Loading...