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Monday, May 24, 2010

How should I Address a Professor?

Understanding how a professor wants to be addressed can be difficult to determine. If you are uncertain, you should address your professor as Professor LastName. You will always be correct in using this form of address.

If you know your professor has a doctorate (e.g.,PhD or EdD), you can refer to her/him as Doctor LastName.

If invited, you can refer to your professor by her/his first name.

You can usually find clues on a course syllabus regarding the professor’s preference. If you see your instructor is “Dr. So and So” or “So and So, PhD,” it is my recommendation is that you refer to her/him as Doctor. If her/his name is simply “So and So,” your best bet would be to refer to her/him as Professor.

If the syllabus indicates they are a graduate student, graduate teaching fellow, teaching assistant or so on, he/she will probably be ok with being addressed by her/his first name.

The underlying theme is to be respectful, always. It generates positive feelings and behavior between people.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why a Professor is Not a Teacher!

Most people teaching in higher education institutes consider themselves professors, not teachers. Teachers are usually associated with K-12 educational settings. Teachers have been specifically trained in the methods of teaching and learning. Most of the curriculum teachers take in higher education prepares them for teaching many subjects. For example, if someone becomes an early childhood educator (K-3rd grade), they have been trained to teach a variety of subject matters – reading, writing, mathematics and so on. If they are becoming a secondary education educator, again, they tend to take a limited number of classes in their specialty areas – natural science, mathematics, and so on, in addition to courses on educational theory.

In contrast, professors have not been formally trained as educators. They have not been specifically trained in teaching methodologies or educational theories. Instead, professors have spent many years being trained in a specialized field. Most professors will have advanced degrees (Master’s or Doctorate) in a specific area – Biology, Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, English and so on. They are professional biologists or professional political scientists. Furthermore, professors may have specialized in a specific area within a field. For example, a biologist might have specialized in zoology or anatomy and physiology or marine biology. Professors are considered Experts within a field of study, very much like medical doctors who have been specifically trained in the field of medicine.

Do not refer to a college-level instructor as a teacher. Refer to her/him as a professor.

A Very Old Problem!

A professor’s frustration with students is not a new problem.  I hear the same complaints from professors’ year-in and year-out.  It is often the little mistakes that a student makes that lead to bigger misunderstandings with professors.  Usually, these mistakes occur because the student is acting out of habit based on prior experience in the education system.  Certainly, higher education uses the same props as primary and secondary educational institutions – classrooms, textbooks, teachers/professors, tests/exams, papers, and so on.  Thus, students new to higher education enter the environment in much the same way they approached all other educational settings.  They do not make a distinction between a professor and a teacher.  For professors, this is an important distinction!   

Every year professors have the same complaints regarding students.  Professors wonder why students do not read the syllabus – because they don’t understand why it is important.  In order for students to succeed, they need to be introduced to the Mind of the Professor! 

This blog explores some very old complaints that professors have about students.  I will explore complaints and explain why the professor has this complaint and what students can do to make interactions with their professors more successful.

I hope if you are having difficulty with a professor, you will post to this blog and I and my colleagues will try to assist you in resolving the issue!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Welcome to My Mind

Any student entering higher education is required to make a transition. Part of successfully making the transition is to understand the expectations of professors. Unfortunately, this information is not readily available to students. Information that is available is not comprehensive and offers mere glimpses at the mind of a professor. Often times, information is passed from student to student without the underlying reason for a professor’s behavior/expectations being explicit. Students understand that they should go to class, take notes, pass exams, read the text, write papers. This blog explores the many idiosyncratic behaviors that are exhibited by professors and the logic behind these behaviors. Hopefully, this will help students avoid misunderstandings with their professors.