C-Suite Agenda

5 Hallmarks of an Effective College Professor

Throughout an average college career, students will encounter a wide range of professors—varying in teaching style, personality type, course structure, expertise, etc. It’s a safe bet most students will find a majority of their professors fair or good; they learn what they need to from the class and move forward. And, of course, there may be a few less-than-stellar instructors along the way.

But then there’s that handful of professors who really stand out. These are the teachers who end up captivating students, passing on knowledge in the most engaging manner possible. These are the professors who make students feel welcome inside and outside the classroom. Being an excellent professor means having an impact on young learners, possibly for life.

Want to really “wow” your class next semester? Here are just five hallmarks of effective college professors to embody.

#1: Sets Clear Expectations

It’s an inside joke amongst many college students that “syllabus week” means no homework—which leads some to believe they can tune out without missing anything.

But professors can counteract this mentality by using their syllabus as a chance to set the tone for the entire course. An effective syllabus doesn’t just list reading assignments and project deadlines; it gives learners a feel for what to expect from the class—and what you as a professor will expect from students.

One University of Washington resource suggests in addition to the classic course description and assignments, professors include a section for “course policies and values.” Here are a few examples:

  • Inclusiveness: How will this class foster participation and inclusiveness for all learners? Cover accessibility, diversity, learning types, etc.
  • Integrity: What constitutes academic misconduct in this class? What are the standards for integrity?
  • Success: What will it take to succeed in this course? Suggest strategies for success and offer resources to which students can refer throughout the semester.

When professors and students are able to start the semester on the same page, everyone wins.

#2: Prioritizes Student Engagement

It’s no secret that one-way lectures tend to promote passive learning. It’s all too easy for students to disengage if they’re just letting information wash over them for long periods of time. So, effective professors know they have to consciously ramp up engagement if they expect students to retain what they’re hearing—or care.

For this reason, many instructors utilize a classroom response system like Poll Everywhere to encourage active learning. Students can use their laptops or mobile devices to answer multiple-choice questions, ask freeform questions and create word clouds in real time. This helps break up the monotony of long lectures, encouraging students to re-engage with course material.

#3: Has Passion for the Subject Matter

Passion is contagious. As Study Breaks writes, “Many college students don’t look forward to taking advanced math or chemistry, and it is up to the teacher to inspire a love for learning.”

No matter what subject you’re teaching, passion helps bring it alive. For students, it makes the difference between attending another ho-hum lecture and caring about the information.

#4: Not Afraid to Say ‘I Don’t Know’

While professors are the authorities on their subjects, they’re only human. If a student asks a complicated question, it’s better to say that you’ll look into it and circle back next time—then do that—then it is to provide a vague answer, or project an attitude of “because I said so.”

University Students

#5: Makes Themselves Available 

Last but not least, effective professors make themselves available for questions and conversations inside the classroom and outside class hours. The more welcome students feel, the more likely they are to take advantage of office hours, ask questions and go the extra mile on projects.

To be an effective college professor in this day and age, you’ll need to excel in these five areas: passion, setting expectations, engagement, availability and honesty.

Have you read?

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Mindy Wright

Mindy Wright

Deputy Commissioning Editor
Mindy Wright is CEOWORLD magazine's Deputy Commissioning Editor, and leads global newsroom coverage and management. She oversees and coordinates coverage of the news and ideas in partnership with writers across the continent. She has reported from more than 15 countries across Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. She has advised CEOs, investors, boards, and high-profile industry leaders on a wide range of issues impacting the global business landscape. She can be reached on email mindy-wright@ceoworld.biz. You can follow her on Twitter at @ceoworld.