Friday, May 2, 2008

Rate the Profs

Finals are here again, and as I spend time in preparation for exams, I am forced to reflect on what my experience this semester has been. My feelings about my preparedness for exams directly correlate to my in-class experience, and I suspect it is the same for many of us. As the profs prepare to dole out our grades, I thought I would do a bit of assessment myself!

Here are five telltale signs, in my opinion, that the professor was great:

1. You “hear” the professor’s voice speaking to you when you are studying the material. This is an easy one. It has been my experience that the tone and style of the professor becomes linked with the material itself. The truly great ones continue to impact your thinking beyond their class. They model the difference between knowing material and knowing how to teach material.

2. When you ask a bone-head question, the best professors hear not only the bone-headedness of your question, but also where you are sticking. These professors are able to re-direct your thoughts to enable you to see the issue in the proper way. To top it off, they are gracious.

3. Questions are thoroughly answered. Let’s get real, we are not here simply to pass a class! We are training to be lawyers, and lawyers need to know and understand concepts that are learned in law school. When you ask a question that is either tangentially related or even directly related and get a full response and maybe even a recommendation for a law review article to look at, you know you have an amazing professor – be grateful!

4. Class climate. A great professor gauges the unique class dynamics in light of the material s/he intends to cover. Great professors are able to adjust and adapt to the pace of the class easily. They push the class forward without running over us in the process.

5. Interest in students’ learning is the most profound indicator, in my experience. A great professor is interested in teaching as much as research. The reason seems to be that a great professor thrives on the pursuit of understanding the law, and teaching students is another manifestation of this discovery process.

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