Awful Professors

<p>My DS and DD (at the same university) have had some of the worst professors I've ever heard of. They belittle the students. Some, frankly, don't seem to know the subject. The courses do not transition seamlessly one to the other.</p>

<p>For example, my DS took his Calc 3 class with a professor whose area of expertise was algebra. The guy tried to use algebra to teach calculus. Needless to say, no one in the class learned anything. The class average was 39/100, but the curve put the final grades at B's and C's. It's coming back to haunt all of them.</p>

<p>My DD walked out of her Calc 3 professor's office because he was belittling the student in front of her for asking questions about the homework. DD wasn't about to put herself in that position. </p>

<p>My DS just finished an upper division course in which he was doing great. He had an 89/100 uncurved and was looking to earn a solid "A" in the course. And then came test 3. The professor wrote a three-question exam NO ONE (not one, nada, zilch) could finish. My DS got through question one just as time was called. His score on the exam reflected that he got that one question right, but got zeros on the other two questions. (Hard to get a score when you can't complete the questions). The class average on that exam was a 37. The professor admitted he wrote a bad exam, but did NOTHING to truly correct his mistake. His fix was to add an extra-credit question to the final exam. Once again, my DS (and most of the other students) never even got to the extra credit question. Time ran out on the final exam. (By the way, DS said the extra credit question was about a 15 minute question - not an easily workable problem.) My DS ended up with a B- in the course solely because of his score on the third exam. </p>

<p>My DS is currently taking Part 2 of a class with a professor with whom he did not take Part 1. Apparently, his Part 1 professor did not cover a certain chapter which the Part 2 professor assumes all students have already covered because he DID teach the material in his Part 1 course. Now my DS is trying to teach himself the material that most of the other students only have to review because they took Part 1 with their Part 2 professor. Shouldn't there be a set curriculum for each course regardless of who teaches the material? </p>

<p>Both DS and DD report that the professors are taking forever to return homework back to the students, and it seems like the students have to argue points on each homework/test because they are misgraded. </p>

<p>Frankly, both my children report that the professors don't seem to care whether anyone learns the material. I talked an old friend of mine who attended this same university 50 years ago, and he reported the same problem. The university is all about research with few professors interested in teaching. </p>

<p>Anyone else have a student running into this problem? I am half tempted to call the Dean of the College or the Chair of the department and complain. I know, however, that my words would fall on deaf ears and would probably end up hurting my children rather than helping them. It is all so frustrating. Any suggestions?</p>

<p>Are they checking with Rate my professor before choosing professors? They should definitely be adding their experience there so others can be warned.</p>

<p>Might I ask where they attend?</p>

<p>I'm afraid Rate My Professor isn't going to help because they have to take courses that fit their schedules - regardless of who teaches the course. No point in posting a gripe at RMP because most students are in the same "fits my schedule" boat. Additionally, it is a wide-spread problem across the university and especially in their majors. It's not just one or two professors, but a whole slew of them. It actually seems like the professors who are good at teaching are the exception, not the norm.</p>

<p>All I can tell you is they are at a major university with an outstanding reputation. I'm not impressed.</p>

<p>This is really a shame. I do think we are sometimes a bit too idealistic when it comes to teaching "quality." Kids do expect all of their profs to be at least "good," but honestly if you ask around usually there is at least one disappointing prof in any given semester, at any school. Still, some of the things you describe are worse than disappointing.</p>

<p>It's very hard to know what to predict. My D1's best teacher was a grad student, called in to cover a sabbatical. We all hear that we should shun grad students as instructors, but this person was at the end of her doctoral program, knew the subject inside out, and really made an effort. Some really established profs at the school (a very highly ranked private U) were boring, unhelpful, disorganized, etc. I don't think D1 ever actually had a nasty one, though.</p>

<p>D2 is at a mid-level private U, and her profs have run the gamut. But it was noticeable how her "established" prof last semester was a terrible teacher - inconsistent grading, no helpful constructive comments, even refused to finish reading one of her papers (but then gave it a C - hey, if it was so bad, have the guts to give it a truly poor grade!) - and the adjunct was invested, caring, and available. "Common wisdom" wouldn't have suggested this outcome, either.</p>

<p>So on the cynical side, I'd say that mediocre teaching is everywhere. But on the positive side, I'll say that a lot of no-name schools as well as "top" schools have terrific teachers. The sheer number of people with higher degrees and the need to teach to support themselves suggests that it's a buyer's market for colleges. </p>

<p>I think if a kid gets a 3/4 ratio of good vs. disappointing profs per semester they are doing pretty well. And getting through a bad course or a bad prof is a test of character, much like surviving public school. Honestly, after HS both of my D's are pleasantly surprised that so many of their college profs have been so good! And they both have worked hard to problem-solve when a situation has gone sour - D2 got out of the bad prof's section this semester. With another frustrating prof she has decided she will try to find more ideas to cope (he's not such a bad teacher as just interpersonally a bad fit for her).</p>

<p>I wish there was an efficient way kids could find out about troublesome profs/classes in advance, but I think "Rate my Prof" is dangerous. D2 was sure one of her classes this semester was going to be awful, because of the buzz from upperclassmen. She says it's actually a good class. Everyone's experience is different.</p>

<p>Is this at a research university? At my son's university, professors are for publications and their ability to get grant money. Ability to teach isn't near the top of the list. Son has had some professors that were quite bad at teaching - basically you have to teach yourself with professors like that.</p>

<p>Daughter has had a few like that at her CC. In one class, she asked me if she could withdraw. She had an A average in papers to date so I couldn't understand why she wanted to withdraw but I trusted her judgement and there did seem to be a lot of student complaints on the class later on.</p>

<p>Last semester she had a class where the professor didn't grade homeworks, quizzes and tests in a timely fashion and didn't grade quizzes and tests correctly. My daughter and another student talked to the Dean about it and had adjustments to their grades but apparently they were the only two to get this as they both complained. Our daughter met another student that had the same issues a few weeks into this semester and found out that our daughter got an adjustment and he's going to talk to the Dean about it too - though I suspect that it might be too late.</p>

<p>That can make up for the grade but it can't make up for any material that didn't get covered or covered well. I just tell our kids that people teach and that teaching ability isn't always the main reason why teachers are hired and that they have to roll with the punches - as real life will throw harder punches.</p>

<p>
[quote]
I think if a kid gets a 3/4 ratio of good vs. disappointing profs per semester they are doing pretty well. And getting through a bad course or a bad prof is a test of character, much like surviving public school.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>If only my DS could have such a ratio. The professor he had that blew Exam 3 last semester is one of his professors this semester along with the Part1/Part2 professor. To make matters worse, His third course this semester is taught by a professor older than dirt who keeps forgetting what he is talking about. The professor admits he gets lost in class, but has done nothing to get himself replaced with someone more "with it". DS says the course is a waster course because he is learning zip. </p>

<p>Because DS is now upper division, he is running into courses with the same professors over and over again. He honestly was thinking about changing majors, but his roommates (in a different major) are reporting awful professors, as well. </p>

<p>What I see is my DS getting a swiss cheese education. There are so many gaps I wonder how he is ever going to be valuable to a company once he graduates. And he's not alone. His classmates are all in the same boat. Yet, this university is top-rated. Wish I had never agreed to let my children attend this university.</p>

<p>I feel for you! It's really a shame when you get caught in a major where the options get so limited. That's not what I, or my H, or either of my kids has experienced.</p>

<p>Someone might chime in that this is something you're supposed to check out before they decide on a school. Honestly I don't think that's really possible to do - sitting in on classes is so random, and even talking to students is iffy. The departments themselves certainly aren't going to tell you what their weaknesses are. </p>

<p>My kids met several profs at their schools, chatted up students, read comments and poked around. But mostly they had to act on faith. And there are often these slaps in the face - D2 interviewed with a Dean last year who seemed like the nicest, most supportive person in the world. But when D went to ask her what to do about a prof in the dept who refused even to read a paper, the Dean just told her to work harder and try to listen to what he was teaching her. I can understand a Dean not wanting to bash her own prof, but D felt very frustrated, since she was specifically asking what to do when a prof was NOT teaching her.</p>

<p>I suppose you all have thought about a transfer. Also I'll give feeble comfort that the cumulative effect of the education will probably turn out to be just fine. So often only a few really good classes, or an internship, or a great mentor, can make up for a lot of gaps. Many of us from "good" undergraduate experiences come out knowing all of the things we feel unprepared about - sometimes learning on the job solves that issue, but of course in many professions grad school becomes the best solution.</p>

<p>BCEagle91 - This sounds exactly like the university my children attend. It is so frustrating. Should my DS complain to the Dean? Or will this simply set him up as a complainer and put him in a position of getting shunned by the department?</p>

<p>I agree that my children have to roll with the punches, and they are learning to do that. I am angry, though, at the money being spent to educate them and they are having to self-teach. Even worse, their grades don't reflect how much they really learned or did not learn. For example, the grade my DS received in Calc 3 definitely does not reflect just how poor a teacher his professor was, nor does the grade he received in Exam 3 Professor's class reflect how much he really knows about the subject. How does he tell a potential employer he knows more than his grade reflects?</p>

<p>My DS has managed to connect with three professors who, if not good teachers, at least were willing to talk with him during office hours and answer his questions as needed. He stays in touch with these professors, but there's little they can do for him.</p>

<p>You do us all a disservice by not NAMING the institution in question. This is CollegeConfidential, and we can choose to use or not use that information as we see fit. </p>

<p>I would note that my older d., at a LAC (Smith), and my younger one, at a private mid-sized (American) experienced none of this. Of course, they liked some professors better than others (but that doesn't mean the ones they liked were better professors).</p>

<p>You have identified the problem:
[quote]
The university is all about research with few professors interested in teaching.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Usually, these classes do have TAs (and I suspect that it is the TAs who are grading, and perhaps even writing, the assignments and exams, not the profs). I would suggest that students at these schools seek out the TAs and see what help they might be.</p>

<p>My guess would be The University of Michigan- Ann Arbor.</p>

<p>I am choosing not to name the university because my DS and DD could be identified through my other posts. It sounds like this problem is not atypical, especially at the large research-based universities. I am hoping to garner some suggestions from others with a similar experience. I get so angry with these awful professors when my DS relates his experiences to me. At least he is still in the program and attending the university. </p>

<p>It seems like those students who reach upper division should be treated with respect and not be treated as if they were the village idiots. Both my children have observed other students being talked to as if they hadn't an intelligent thought in their heads. Why? What is the point? At least these students care enough to ask for clarification. My children, too, usually have no trouble asking for clarification. They do, however, resent being talked down to. If they knew how to work the problem, they wouldn't have to attend the university, now would they? If the material was so easy to understand, then the professors wouldn't be so important in their fields, right?</p>

<p>Even worse are the courses with an anti-curve. How can my DD earn a 91/100 in a course and receive a "B"? Not even a "B+"? Give me a break. (If a surgeon understood 91% of what he was taught in medical school, I'd be thrilled. He/she can cut on me.)</p>

<p>You do us all a disservice by not NAMING the institution in question. This is CollegeConfidential, and we can choose to use or not use that information as we see fit.</p>

<p>It takes 1 minute to do a search of where her son was a freshman three years ago.</p>

<p>Same place a couple I know were teaching until they both transferred to NYU.
Too obscure?
I went there last summer. ;)</p>

<p>Some of the TA's are good, but some are just as bad as the professors. They contradict what the professor taught in class, misgrade papers and quizzes, and are unavailable. Not much help there.</p>

<p>The point is not where they go to school, but can anything be done about Exam 3 Professor or Where-Am-I professor? Can anything be done about DS not having been taught material in Part 1 course that is highly relevant to Part 2 course? Suggestions? </p>

<p>Oh, and the icing on the cake? My DS got points off his homework in one course this semester for bad handwriting. Seriously. No warning - just points off. Of course, he received this homework back AFTER he turned in the next assignment. Wonder what grade he'll get on Homework 2? He did talk to the professor about the points off - to no avail.</p>

<p>I second the notion that it's the Univ of Michigan. </p>

<p>This is actually terrifying as a parent of hs kids. How is the retention rate at the school? We deal with this so much at the hs level - they never update the online grading, teachers lose things, one of my dd's teachers in 8th grade gave her a+'s all year, only to find out they only made it through 5 chapters. </p>

<p>The problem with the research institutes is that many times they don't care about undergrad education. I can certainly understand the frustration. I'm thinking I would suggest my kids transfer if they aren't too deep in already. But I don't know how you know for the next place if it's any better.</p>

<p>People say to tough it out - I remember having a stuttering, barely english speaking russian professor in a very critical class for my major. It's amazing it isn't required to be somewhat fluent to be able to teach at the college level.</p>

<p>This is why some of us - having experienced the giant flagship research U thing are encouraging kids to give LACs a look. Not that they don't also have problems, but they're likely not the totally disengaged prof with TA that doesn't speak English in 800 person core class kind of problems.</p>

<p>My son had some terrible professors at Penn- especially in math. His first class/first exam he got in the 30s and called me in a panic needing a tutor. We found one (through a wonderful young man who used to post on this site). Turned out the test score was an A- on the curve, but there is really no excuse for that. Interestingly, I don't think my daughter complained about one professor at Rice!</p>

<p>I think there are a handful of bad professors everywhere. Personally, I think you should get together with a few students and complain. There's protection in numbers. Rate my Professor isn't taken seriously by the administration. There's no excuse for one professor covering more material than another in a required course. There's no excuse for belittling students with questions. Are there other ways to get help? When I was in college there was math help manned by grad students and smart undergrads. They were usually easier to access and able to point me in the right direction in minutes when I had a math problem I couldn't figure out.</p>

<p>I think there are poor professors at many, many big-name universities. There seems to be a conspiracy of silence about it, as once the families are paying so much tuition and the students are struggling to make it to graduation, no one wants to go online and cheapen the brand. OP, please have your DS and DD post on Rate My Professors. Even though this may not help their immediate peers, it WILL help those students and parents trying to compile application lists.</p>

<p>In terms of helping your DS and DD at present, what about seeking out some grad student tutors, who perhaps have learned this material at another institution, and can teach the content outside of class time?</p>