What Are the Least Helpful Things Teachers Do? First Year Students



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What Are the Least Helpful Things Teachers Do?

First Year Students (written by the class of 2010 during semester 2)

One of things that is least helpful is when professors wait too long to let students ask questions. If I can only ask questions twice in the whole lecture there are usually questions I had before but that I can't remember by the time I am allowed ask them. Most professors don't do it, but I really dislike when professors get behind in their schedule and then they ask you to figure things out for yourself and ask them if you have questions. I usually can't tell if I understand it enough if I don't even know which points should have been emphasized. Also, it is easy to read things without really putting all the concepts together.

Go over things quickly, make difficult to understand test questions, test you on material that really wasn’t talked about or assume we have strong backgrounds in a subject because it was a pre-requisite class.

The least helpful things instructors do is only lecture directly off of the power point slide in front of them. It is helpful to hear about clinical relevance even though it may be too much information for us right now.

Least helpful is not explaining things well enough during a lecture or telling you one thing will be on the exam and then putting things on the exam that were not even focused on during lectures or in the notes.

Allow the same people to ask questions that don't directly relate to course material. It makes us fall behind, get off task, ruin focus during a lecture.

Do nothing when it is clear they are losing us. Turn the lights up, tell a story, yell, do something to bring us back. We sit and have to pay attention to hard stuff for long intervals, throw us a bone every now and then.

It is not helpful when instructors keep using the same examples over and over again to explain a difficult concept because if you don't connect with that example, you're still lost. It is better when professors use multiple explanations (especially when the class gives that blank stare back at you)! It is not helpful when instructors just read off the PowerPoint slides. We can read it ourselves, we need elaboration. Not an instructor thing, but a logistics thing, it's really hard when we have two (or three) sessions of the same class in a row. My mind has trouble focusing on one topic for that long.

Least helpful-not following the syllabus (it's difficult to read before lecture when instructors do not follow the schedule or notify us of a change in the schedule), obviously this does not apply to everyone.

It's really hard to follow the lectures if the notes don't coincide with the lecture. 

Some professors get off on tangents, usually related to the topic of discussion, for longer than is probably necessary to get the point across.

Another unhelpful thing a professor can do is invite and then answer every question presented in class in complete and thorough detail. As a fellow student, I understand the development of questions during a class period as the complexity of the scientific material we are responsible for increases, but is every question of such importance to a student's fundamental understanding that the flow of lecture must be stopped so they can be answered? I'm not sure how we can solve this problem besides opening specified student office hours and giving faculty email accounts that they can access 24/7. . . oh wait?!?

I'm not a big fan of last minute review sessions and would appreciate ones scheduled earlier (in terms of the exam), since I've done most of my studying before then. However, I know several students do like last minute review sessions.

Lecture organization - feel like it is really hard to concentrate on each subject when your lectures are scheduled all over the place (although it is helpful that most classes are integrated and this semester definitely feels more organized than last)

Basing grades solely off of exams - can there be more integrated projects incorporating material ? Not all students are represented fairly by exams.

LEAST helpful things: Coming to lecture without preparing (not a problem with the majority of our instructors), not being able to ask questions (also not a problem with the majority of our instructors).

Least helpful: when information in class is taught in a general manner while the tests ask very specific questions. when students are forced to teach themselves the majority of the material while class time is used as a general discussion session.

Not a huge fan of "power lectures" scheduled back-to-back. Not a huge fan of having to refer to PowerPoints AND study guides AND outlines, AND, AND...please put all of the information in one place, and give it to me before lecture, please. I usually end up not going to additional review sessions after I've given the first one a chance because they are all the same: people asking questions that seem unimportant, I end up getting more stressed about what I don't know yet, and feel like I could have spent the time better just studying on my own.

The least helpful things instructors do are being vague, testing on insignificant details or topics that were barely mentioned in lecture, entertain off-topic questions from other students, etc. the least helpful thing of all is to lecture in a condescending manner. most of us do not respond well to being talked down to rather than taught.

- Read to us off PowerPoint slides.

- Lecture in broken sentences, with such things as “ums” and “uhs” used too often. It’s distracting. If one is teaching at this level, one should be able to speak in fluid sentences that make it easy for listeners to follow the discussion.

- Include unnecessary details in lecture (sometimes we have enough on our plates with the “big” concepts that we need to master first)

- Rush through lecture (glossing over important concepts) so we don’t even have time to process some of the info

Second Year Students (Written by the Class of 2008, during semester 4)

Don’t fit in 2 hours worth of lecture material in the last class before the exam just because you’re behind. It’s not our fault.

Waste our time with group projects and presentations. We are busy people, and not everyone lives close together (or close to campus). It is very hard to get together for these projects, and the rest of the class rarely learns as much from the presentations. Lecture directly from the notes, or not from the notes at all.

What I am requesting is for you to stand back and really imagine your students’ days. Better yet, sit in the audience of a Tuesday second year’s vet school day, all six hours one day. Or attend all the classes for a week. Take notes on your feelings, your ideas, your attention span during the lectures. Ask yourself, “What can I do, so that I can take my students with me as I travel through the hour? What can I do each and every hour I stand in front of them, remembering where they are headed after the four crammed years? What do I want them to leave with that will help them today and in ten years, even? How can I be their educational advocate?”

Least helpful: Using overheads or word documents displayed on the screen--- pictures help us learn! And keep us awake! Also, claiming “copyright” issues when not putting slides on the web- many of us are using our tablet computers for notes and it saves a lot of paper to write directly on the notes (on the computer)!
Third Year Students (Written by the Class of 2007, during semester 6)

Probably when they don’t try to have stimulating lectures. Or when they test on topics that they didn’t emphasize in class.

Lecture. Most professors simply read their notes, and it isn’t as if we are talking about difficult concepts. Typically, we are talking about laundry lists of facts that we then memorize for the exam and subsequently forget.

What is the next least helpful thing a professor can do? Give multiple choice tests. Sure, they’re easier to take and grade, but what’s the point, really?

The least helpful thing professors do is give a lecture that does not follow the notes we have. I believe that the point of having notes is so we aren’t furiously scribbling during lecture, yet there are points we may need to still add to help with clarification when reviewing later. If the notes are not followed by the lecturer, there are times when I’m not listening because I’m looking for the section he/she is on, and then I miss something, I forget what I was going to jot down, I get lost, and then I give up on the notes entirely and just follow the lecture and start furiously scribbling, hoping it makes sense later. If a professor does not follow his or her notes, they (either the notes or the lecturer) become a stumbling block.

Lectures that are simply the instructor’s notes on PowerPoint slides and read to us are rarely very stimulating or interesting, and therefore make it difficult to pay attention to what is being said, and does not seem to be time well spent.

1) Notes that are PowerPoints

2) Make us memorize reams of lists.

3) Not having asked yourself “What’s the point of this class? What do I want the students to 1) memorize and 2) just know where to find? How can I use this 50 minutes? (not to “present the material” but to TEACH the material) How can I connect this to what they already know? How can I reinforce what they’ve learned in other classes that is important (especially relevant in medicine which is largely review).
Fourth Year Students (Written by the Class of 2006, during semester 8)

Spending our time with restraining a patient while we could be on the other end of it, learning. Unorganized days/schedules, where most of the day is spent waiting around for the clinician. Utilize our time with you! If there isn’t a high case load or we’re not busy, encourage topic rounds!!! Don’t always assume that we want the time off, we do actually want to learn!



1) failing to emphasize what the important material is - 99% of students simply cannot learn every single point that you make in your notes. 2) Giving long-winded, circuitous answers to students’ questions. You should be able to answer a student’s question in several short sentences, or say you don’t know and will email the class with the answer. 3) If you feel that a student’s manner of interaction is not polite, tell them so politely and tell them specifically what you expect. 4) having labs and other required time that are “fluffy” or “fillers” - i.e., do nothing to underscore important concepts. Avoid long-winded lectures, showing lengthy videos, etc. during lab time. Not a good way to help students learn.

Stand at the front of the classroom and read PowerPoints, overheads, or notes directly to the class. It is easy to lose interest.


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