What Students Wish That Professors Understood

In this piece (web link), Nicole Matos explored the question “What do you really, really wish your professors understood?” with students who took her developmental writing course.

At Baruch, we work with faculty who teach students across a wide spectrum of disciplines and degree programs. While it’s true that the students in Matos’s article attend a community college and are specifically talking about first-year composition courses, the answers that they give to this question are revealing and important reminders for all of us as we approach the new school year.

Significantly, students in Matos’s class ask that professors remember their humanity. They are often overwhelmed by complex responsibilities, and remind us that “dedication” to school work is a much easier prospect for students who have financial stability and privilege.

They also ask us to remember that school can be an emotional place: students can carry insecurities, anxieties, and frustrations from previous coursework into the college classroom. And, of course, so can we!

Students ask that we show our humanity, too. Often, professors feel that exuding passion and expertise about our scholarship is the best way to engage students. But according to these students, it was equally or even more important for a professor to demonstrate that they care about student success.

Importantly, students ask that we stop taking their failure personally, that we give them multiple opportunities to show what they’ve learned, and that we vary our instruction style instead of primarily relying on lecture or whole group discussion.

What do you wish that students knew about you as the school year begins? How do you communicate this with them?

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