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Unreasonable Professor?

  1. Nov 1, 2007 #1

    Defennder

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    Recently I attended a tutorial conducted by a professor in an introductory course. After the lesson, a female student approached the professor for the answer to the last few parts of a question in the tutorial which he did not cover due to time constraints, saying that the answer may be derived in similar fashion as the previous parts of the same question. I happened to be there because I was the last to leave apart from her because I had some questions for the professor.

    While he did explain to her and gave her the answer to some of the questions, upon further inquiry by her, he refused to give the answer. He then raised his voice noticeably, telling her he didn't have the time nor the patience to entertain her enquiries for the question, saying that if he had to cover every single part to every question in the tutorial no matter how trivial it may seem, he would be wasting his time and that the answer was quite evident to anyone who would be willing to think just a little harder on the question. He then continued scolding her, claiming she should have been able to take the initiative to figure it out on her own after looking through the first few parts of question and the corresponding answers provided by him.

    For those curious he was saying something like:

    "I don't the time to go through every single question here! If the question has forty parts and I give the answer to 20 of them, you should be able to discern the pattern among them to complete the rest on your own. This is what is expected of a university student even in the first year! You only need to think a bit harder to get it, it's not even that difficult! Show some initiative!"

    He went on and on ranting for some time while I stood by, not wanting to incur his wrath. The girl appeared subdued and then mumbled a reply "I'm not sure if I understand the material enough to derive the correct answer..." before trailing off. She then left soon after.

    Although a little shocked at what transpired, I then asked my questions while pretending nothing unusual happened before.

    I do not know the female student at all, not even her name. But I can't quite help but feel that the professor was very unhelpful and unprofessional in willing to help a confused student understand better. I understand that this is a first semester course and therefore the material covered would not normally be difficult. But is this behaviour by him justified in any way? How common is this? How many here have had the same experience and what would you have done if you were in my shoes then?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 1, 2007 #2
    it looks like you've been on the forum for a little while--you should be able to answer those questions yourself :tongue:
     
  4. Nov 1, 2007 #3
    I would have just told what the prof has told in his last sentence - "You only need to think a bit harder to get it, it's not even that difficult! Show some initiative!" - the *PF* slogan.
     
  5. Nov 1, 2007 #4
    He is a wise professor. Not only he doesn't give solutions that often, but rather makes students work for them.

    The prof said the student was wasting his time. But lets see. What students do in free time? They go out partying and hanging out all day long.

    It might take the student an hour of hardcore self-studying to master the material. If the prof has to spare his five minutes so a student could have more free time than that's not cool.

    my 2 cents.
     
  6. Nov 1, 2007 #5

    Kurdt

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    It very much depends on the university lecturer. Some are very helpful and will provide answers while others just present material and expect the student to do the work. It is commonly accepted however that at university level there is a greater amount of input from the student in understanding work and solving problems. If the girl has shown that shes put every effort in and is still not understanding the work then I don't think hes justified, but thats my personal opinion.
     
  7. Nov 1, 2007 #6

    Moonbear

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    Well, it seems it's partly her timing. If he ended the lecture by saying you could derive the rest from what was provided, and the first thing she did was run up and ask him to do it for her, then he's right, she's wasting his time by not putting in any initiative. She should have gone home, sat down with the material, and attempted to derive the rest of the answer based on what she had just been taught during the tutorial. Only if she was getting stuck somewhere after that would it have been appropriate to make an appointment to see the professor to get additional help.

    And, he's also right that if he solves every single problem for you, you'll never learn anything. It's typical to give examples in class, solve every other problem or something like that, but then the student needs to attempt the rest to practice and see if they're understanding. If you ask the professor to solve the rest of the problems for you before even attempting them yourself, or expect to be handed solutions instead of pointers on how to find the solutions on your own, you will get the same response as the students in our homework help forums get...come back when you can show me your own work.
     
  8. Nov 1, 2007 #7

    JasonRox

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    I'm on the profs side. We had a similiar incident and everyone in the class still remembers that incident. Most people look at the girl like she's stupid rather than the prof. being rude. There were 24 parts and he went through 6 and there was a pattern!

    If she ran up to him right after class just minutes after he said take time to look at it, that's just dumb on her part.
     
  9. Nov 1, 2007 #8

    Astronuc

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    I wouldn't have told a student that I would be wasting time or don't have the patience. I certainly would encourage the student to make an attempt, and if there is still a problem, come a see me afterward. When I was teaching, I had official office hours when I would definitely be in the office, but I was generally available anytime, even during the evening. I'd even meet groups of students in the library or classroom after hours if they needed help - but I expected students to put in the work.

    But then that's just me. :smile:
     
  10. Nov 1, 2007 #9

    Chris Hillman

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    Random anecdote

    Like everyone else, I'm with the professor on this one.

    Defennnder, it's a cliche but nonetheless true that few if any people appreciate many issues involved in teaching unless they have served in the role of a teacher. Definitely one of those jobs that everyone assumes is easy--- until they try doing it themselves!

    A professor of my acqaintance once was approached after class by a student, who asked some very confused questions. The conversation ended like this: "Student: I think I should be in the calculus for dummies course" Professor: "This is the calculus for dummies course!" Sometimes there is simply no way around telling a student he or she has bottomed out, that the only direction is up--- or out.
     
  11. Nov 1, 2007 #10
    I'm with neither. The professor should certainly show more respect to the people paying his salary*, and the student should show more initiative in trying to solve the problem before asking for help.

    *How many people outside of academia would say to the customer, "You're wasting my time"?
     
  12. Nov 1, 2007 #11
    As long as she did start crying it couldn't have been that bad. Most of the time group profs like this one will help you a lot if you really are stuck and keep coming back, showing the things you tried etc. I've gotten yelled at like that once, and it was a good thing too because it made me get my act together.
     
  13. Nov 1, 2007 #12

    Moonbear

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    Your tuition only pays the part of his salary for the time he's scheduled to be in that classroom. The rest of that salary comes from things like research grants. It would really help if students realized that faculty have a lot more to do than just give them lectures. Some of us don't get paid for teaching at all. My salary, for example, comes entirely from research grants, yet I "volunteer" time to teach. I could completely refuse to teach if I wanted to, but I don't. Nonetheless, I wouldn't take kindly to a student who wanted to waste my time asking me to explain something I had just told them to go home and think about on their own.

    We also don't know if that student has a habit of doing this. It might be pretty over the top to yell at her if this is the first time she's ever stayed to ask a question, but if she does this after every lecture, he may be finally fed up with her and needed to be more forceful that she has to take some of her own initiative in learning. Some students are that annoying and that dense about professors reaching their limit on how much they'll spoon feed them when they aren't even trying to put in the effort on their own. Immediately after class is also not the time to get a tutorial, it's a time for a few quick questions to clarify a point in the lecture, for example, but if you need more help than that, make an appointment for office hours.
     
  14. Nov 2, 2007 #13
    People are not always going to be sweet and polite, that's life and accepting that is part of growing up. While, I can see how it would be discouraging for a student to be talked down too, I can see where it may also be a wake up call in a sort of "tough love" way. Personally I have much too big ago to dare let anyone talk to me that way without proving them wrong, and by proving them wrong I mean getting that answer on my own and handing it in promptly with a big fat "Ha I did it!" grin. I think that was just a sneaky form of inspiration from the Professor.
     
  15. Nov 2, 2007 #14

    Moonbear

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    Often it is. The good students usually will take something like that as a challenge rather than piss and moan about it (they might be temporarily miffed, but usually get over it).
     
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