Are your poor grades your professor’s fault?

Everyone wants someone else to blame when things in life don’t go the way they want, but with school, how can you know when you should have worked harder for your grades or when your grade was limited by your professor’s teaching methods?

Many professors are difficult and get a reputation for teaching hard classes, but that doesn’t mean they are bad teachers. Bad teachers are disorganized, aren’t lenient and lazy. Luckily I have only encountered one such professor during my time at UVU. I believe most of the professors at our school are great educators, and they are concerned about their students’ success.

You should not just blindly trust that your professor has your best interests in mind. Take an active role in your education by doing your work to the best of your ability, communicate with your professor as often as you can, ask any questions that you don’t know the answers to and, most importantly, make sure nothing stands in the way getting good grades. That includes your professor.

During the spring semester, I had a science professor that was extremely intense, and his tests were long and very difficult. Our class was expected to know almost all of the extraneous details about every subject covered in the entirety of the class. He explained that he wanted the difficulty of his class to be on par with any of the more recognized schools in the nation. He had a firm belief that to help students retain the information taught in the class, he needed to make the course as difficult as possible. However, his lectures included everything you needed to know. While he did offer a little extra credit, he was not very lenient. He got some poor student reviews, but he gave his students everything they needed to succeed. Admittedly, I wasn’t a fan of how much work was required for a good grade, but I was in total control of my success in the class.

Regardless of how hard the professor thinks it should be, the course should be consistent and properly graded. Most professors believe that the syllabus is like a contract. That the students plan their semester and try to adjust their study time, work time, and free time based on the syllabus. Most professors stick to the syllabus religiously, even throwing out assignments that weren’t on the syllabus. In one of my classes, we studied for the final during class and were given study guides, but the final accidentally was not on the syllabus. When the professor realized on her own that the final wasn’t on the syllabus, she informed the class that there would not be a final.

Professors are human and they make mistakes just like students do, however when the professor makes a mistake they need to make it right for the students’ grades. I have always found that professors remedy the situation quickly and acceptably, with the exception of one professor. This professor promised to fix mistakes, but never did, and gave us a test and a final that was not on the syllabus.

When building a course plan, some professors might overlook the damage that can be done to grades when a test with very few questions is weighted heavily for the course. Twenty five percent of the final grade was attached to the one test and final. Some of the questions were downright deceptive and misleading intentionally. In the end, each question of the tests was worth between one-half percent and 1½ percent of the students’ final grades. The worst part about it was that it was a project class. We didn’t spend much time studying or doing homework assignments; we spent our time “learning by doing.” We could not have passed the test without studying other information, as his study guide was inaccurate.

This same professor used the information he posted online to teach, give assignments and answer questions. The professor never knew the answer to what the assignment entailed as evidenced by contradicting himself on many occasions. He constantly changed due dates and assignment criteria. When you would approach him with a question, many times he would tell you to read the chapter or look online. That is not teaching! The professor had checked out, phoned it in or whatever you want to say. That is unacceptable.

In a situation where the professor isn’t giving you what you need to succeed, do something about it. Keep records of what has transpired, and go to the department head with specifics. First and foremost, make sure you are doing everything you can do to succeed in class before you approach the department head. Most professors at UVU are great, and hopefully no one ever has to go through those experiences themselves. If you ever notice things with a professor like I’ve described, don’t hesitate to do something to make a change, because there are probably other students in your class that are affected more than you but won’t say anything.

By Michael Rankin

UVU Review Contributor

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