10 Ways to Tell You Have Got a Lousy Professor


A new semester has just started for many students, with many new things awaiting you like new classmates, curriculum and professors. Many of you would have sought out feedback on certain professors before choosing their courses, but some professors are still a big question mark. A good option too would be to actually sit through some lectures and get a first hand experience about how good or bad your professors are before deciding whether to drop a course or continue the pain.

Here is where we come in. We have tried to compile 10 things that you should watch out for when giving a score to a professor and whether he deserves your attention for the rest of the semester. Here goes:

1) Not clear about the course material

This is probably one of the few make or break factors when judging your professors so sit up and take note. Professors who are not familiar with the topic that they are lecturing about should be avoided as far as possible. Some professors are requested or even forced to teach certain courses that are not their specialty due to various reasons like manpower shortage. Sometimes professors are also keen to teach new courses besides those that they have taught year in and year out. You can be sure that they will not be as organised as seasoned lecturers in these topics and their knowledge and materials will likely also be lacking. You can usually tell when he needs to constantly refer to his notes or he has stop frequently to think during the lecture.

2) Bad presentation technique

Right at the onset, it is usually easiest to judge if a professor has good presentation and teaching techniques to keep the subject interesting and captivating. This can be seen from the way he speaks, his enthusiasm and his delivery methods of the lecture.Of particular interest is to watch out for those professors who like to go to the front of the class only to hide his face behind a huge textbook and regurgitating the text inside. Why would you need someone to read out your textbook to you? If the start is disastrous, it sure ain’t going to get any better later on.

3) The Grumbler

If you encounter a professor who starts whining about the nature of the course or about the college or mentions that he is better off with research, then you know you have a potential problem on your hand. A professor who is there only because the school demands that he put in some time to teaching is unlikely to take a keen interest in the class or anything related to it.

4) Failure to give syllabus

We all know that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Similarly a professor who cannot give you a detailed study curriculum for the coming year is quite likely not as well prepared as he should be for your class. Or even worse, he has no idea where he intends to go. The least he should do is to give some idea of what he’ll be covering for the semester, his plans for exams and tests and what you should expect.

5) Lack of clarity on grading

A professor who is not sure about the grading system that would be implemented for the year, may throw up unpleasant surprises for the students through the year. Though this may not be a real problem in most schools as grading systems are pretty much fixed and standard, but it is still good to get a professor who can articulate clearly how you will be scored in the class.

6) Unreasonable expectations

This can comprise two different types of professors –one who assigns a lot of work thinking that students should be able to cope or the one who assigns very little work. In the former instance, be prepared to be in a pressure cooker the rest of your semester (not a problem if you thrive on pressure); The setback of the latter instance is obvious, he is either disinterested in the class or you will not learn as much as you could have (again not a problem for those who aren’t interested in learning!).

7) The Professor Your Mother

Professors sometimes can cross the boundary from being a teacher to being your mother. Some can be really picky and strict on every aspect of their class from dressing to talking to the use of cellphones. While each of these rules by themselves seems alright, but add them all up and you might feel like a caged chicken soon. Some may even enforce their own fussy-ness through the penalizing of grades, which you definitely need to take note.

8) Confusing presentation of the course material and bad delivery

A lecture must have a proper structure to it – an introduction, the content and an apt conclusion. If you find the professor delivering the lecture without a structure and generally rambling making it difficult for you to note down the important points, then it will be a challenge for you to sit through his lectures and absorbing all that he is trying to teach.

9) Does not follow an interactive method of teaching

When you find the professor delivering a monologue and not involving the students or taking their feedback, be prepared to be headed into ‘boredom town’. Students need to be engaged in a healthy discussion with the professor for the class to learn and enjoy the semester in a productive fashion and a confident and capable professor always ensures that he promotes such interaction.

10) Newbie or Greenhorn

Of course we should give new professors a chance to prove themselves and to develop but you should also be aware of the potential problems and difficulties inexperienced professors can give you. Some potential heartaches that such professors can give you include disorganised notes and lectures, bad planning of assessments, projects and assignments, questionable grading techniques and methods among many others. Do look out for tell-tale signs that you are unfortunate enough to have gotten a hopeless professor and flee!

Needless to say, these are all suggestions on what to look out for in your new professors and no single professor is perfect. Everyone will have their own strengths and weakness and you need to judge for yourself if their weaknesses are bad enough to consider opting out of their class for something else. But at the end of the day, how much you can get out of a class depends more on yourself than anybody else including your professor.




  1. Nice list here….

    not something that will be fully new to anyone who’s gotta be interested in this, but nevertheless a way to assure our minds if we really have a good or bad professor

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