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Professors Are Different

No one with experience has to be told that teachers in high school are different from one another. But for some reason, freshmen expect more uniformity in college than they get.

A few professors stay very close to the subject as presented in the text­book. In the extreme cases, fortunately rare, they practically read the text­book in lecture. This is a waste of time, although weak students prefer to hear, rather than to read.

Time spent in class should be devoted to explanations of difficult topics or to adding supplemental material which the textbook omits for lack of space; it should include up-to-date developments occurring since the textbook was published, and there should be contributions from the class if possible. Classwork should amplify the textbook, round out the subject, show its deeper significance, and bring mental activity to a high peak on the part of class members.

Education is a process of mental development, not a dishing out of facts and the professor’s opinions. Different professors have different ways of compelling their students to exercise their minds. The same professor may even have different techniques for two different subjects. For example, one subject, such as embryology, may be filled with unfamiliar sequences and changes which have to be explained with gestures and diagrams as the subject unfolds. Another subject, such as conservation, may call for value-judgments and considerable discussion, with students drawing upon their personal experience to supplement general statements found in the textbook.

The professor’s task is often complicated by the wide range of abilities among students. Ideally, the teacher’s task in any type of teaching is to set the level of accomplishment and to develop the class as much as the subject. He sets the pace so that all persons in the class grow mentally at the fastest possible rate.

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