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Tips on Dealing with a horrible class?

  1. Oct 18, 2009 #1

    I am slowly realizing that for the first time in my college career I have a class that is very difficult to get my head around. Not so much in that I have trouble with the topic at hand, I actually find it quite interesting rather that it seems the class is just plain bad.

    1. Our instructor isn't very in touch with what makes sense to the students, and his grading is arbitrarily difficult, changing from assignment to assignment. Also, he loses much of our work and often grades incorrectly, so a certain amount of our time is taken up in dealing with this administrative errors on his part.

    2. The book is the worst part of the class it is unclear and offers no sensible motivation for the topics at hand. The problems to test your knowledge at the end of chapters are awkwardly worded and are few. I don't think I am being too difficult on the book by saying it is almost unreadable, and the entire class agrees.

    So I've gotten another book and find it much better however it is difficult to match up the various sections and to make sure that I am learning the correct material. What is an effective strategy for dealing with this class? Usually I can compensate for a poor lecturer with a good book and poor book with a descent lecturer but in this case I am kind of stuck. It seems rather unfair to have to read two book and end up doing nearly twice the work to learn a subject I could have learned much more efficiently in a well taught class. In an ideal world I would just work through my supplementary book and I definitely think I would have learned the material well, but I have a feeling by purely doing this I might hurt my grade in the class if different aspects are emphasized. Honestly, I'd rather ignore the class and learn this on my own but I guess that isn't an option.

    I have a system that works for me in nearly all my classes and unfortunately it is exceedingly difficult to apply it here and come to grips with learning the material well.

    Any suggestions?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2009 #2


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    Welcome to college. A lot of the times, professors will have their own research and they are pretty much forced to teach on the side, resulting in your situation.

    I suggest you try to get by as best you can, which in your case will probably mean doing the extra work to understand the material, AND talking to the professor about your grades/work or what not. A lot of times they will change grades if you talk to them.
  4. Oct 18, 2009 #3


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    Unfortunately, I think just about everyone runs up against this issue at some point.

    Have you considered forming a study group? If everyone in the class is of the same opinion, there will likely be some interest in getting together on a regular basis and go over the material.

    Have you talked to the professor about this? If you are paying to take the class you have a right to expect quality for your money. I know it can be intimidating to talk to professors sometimes, but if you approach the matter in a respectful, professional way, you might be able to facilitate some change. During office hours you could, for example, suggest some approaches that other instructors use that work well. Another course of action you have along these lines is to approach the department head or academic advisor with your concerns.
  5. Oct 18, 2009 #4


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    A few weeks into my quantum mechanics class, I stumbled onto the fact that the prof was teaching from book A, while we were assigned book B. I quickly bought book A and did OK in the class...but maybe you should look around at other commonly used books for that class, to see if you're in the same situation.

    What class is it, btw?
  6. Oct 18, 2009 #5
    I discovered my Calc III prof was using Stewart for all the lecture examples and some midterm exam questions (even copied one final exam question from that book but modified it a bit), but we were required to use another book. Unfortunately, he couldn't find any material for the complex analysis part of the course from the Stewart so used the assigned book examples for the class lectures. I loved it! I never had to pay attention to his lectures since Stewart and the assigned book had more detailed explanations. :biggrin:
  7. Oct 18, 2009 #6
    Hey rootx,

    The class is actually linear algebra. Unfortunately my professor is using some book that some guy in the department wrote(which isn't published or anything we get it printed from the printer at the school). I wish it was the case that I was simply using the wrong book compared with my professor, unfortunately it is just that this book is entirely unreadable. Terse and dense notation that makes it a chore to track down what the hell a theorem is trying to say, extremely poor explications, and tons of unmotivated stuff that doesn't seem to be coherent in the context off the class.

    Luckily, I picked up the Linear Algebra book from the guy who does the MIT video lectures and find it infinitely more clear, however our book seems to emphasis doing thing a different way, usually a more difficult and computationally intensive way, compared to the MIT book. I don't really understand why this book is being used, I know a students from a few semester who have taken the course and everyone agrees, this book is horrid.
  8. Oct 18, 2009 #7
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. Oct 19, 2009 #8
    The only advice I can give is supplementary work. I encountered the same issue with my Organic Chemistry professor. He could not have cared less about the success of his students. There was a supplementary workbook/solution manual that wasn't required for the class. I went ahead and took the financial hit and ordered them both. I'm really glad I did as well.
    I don't know much about your professor, but the one I had did not purposely try to "trick" students on exams. His exams were straightforward. After working through the extra workbook, I felt I had a lot better grasp on what we were "covering" in class and did very well on the exams compared to students that simply worked with what the professor gave out. If you have a TA available, definitely make use of him. Sorry I couldn't offer more. We all encounter bad professors at one time or another; you just have to learn how survive =/
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