UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 11 | Sep.
5 , 2002
What Makes a Great Teacher? What Makes a Great Student?
As the new academic year begins, students and professors
prepare to meet in the education arena to challenge and learn
from each other. For most, the meeting will be rewarding.
For others, the year will be filled with anxiety and frustration.
In this story we attempt to make the road to prosperity a
little less rocky by asking students and professors to describe
their ideas of success at school.
Rosalind Duane roamed the campus to find the answers.
What Makes a Great Teacher?
Elizabeth Thampy, 4th-year Arts-Psychology student
"A successful professor is someone who conveys his or
her love of the subject. Someone who is here because they
love the teaching aspect of their job, not just the research.
I once had a professor who photocopied all our student cards
and memorized all our names."
Lucy On, 3rd-year Law student
"A successful professor is someone who gives lots of
examples and asks really probing questions. I like more practical
people, people who show you how to apply what you've learned.
For example, giving you real cases to read."
Jake Stein, Graduate student Zoology
"A successful professor doesn't have to be dynamic,
they just have to know the subject and know what it takes
to learn it. They should remember how they learned it and
relay that to the students. Creativity in teaching does not
Roy Belak, 2nd-year Engineering Physics student
"Good teachers have the ability to go beyond the material
being taught and explain the relevance behind the concepts.
Concepts in engineering courses, like the ones I take, are
often abstract and good teachers are capable of extracting
the salient details of the course material. Also, when a class
respects a teacher, they are more likely to value the course
material being taught, and in turn, exert more effort in that
Brian de Alwis, First-year PhD Computer Science student
/ president of the Graduate Student Society
"A successful professor is stimulating. They not only
make you think, but they make you want to think. They pose
challenges to you. They are also willing to suggest people
you can talk to if they are not the expert. For graduate students,
they are willing to invest time to get up to speed with what
you're doing if it's not something they specialize in."
What Makes a Great Student?
Paul Wood, Asst. Prof. Forest Resources Management
"Students should create an environment in which they're
not the only ones who want to learn. They can instill enthusiasm
in peers by asking questions that lead to bigger ideas, or
they can offer comments that broaden the applicability of
what the professor is talking about. A successful student
is willing to think critically. It can be quite motivating
to realize that education carries a responsibility to use
one's knowledge to become a better and or more active citizen."
Andre Marziali, Asst. Prof. of Physics and Astronomy
"In my opinion, enthusiasm and motivation are the primary
and essential driving forces behind student success. Though
natural ability is important, it will not lead to success
on its own in a poorly motivated student. Only students with
a strong desire to study, motivated by their own passion for
the course material, are likely to find the resources within
themselves that are required to perform at the high standards
that are expected at university."
Mary Lynn Young, Asst. Prof. of Journalism
"Successful students are committed to their studies.
They search for that extra book in the library or that extra
information for their paper. They reach beyond themselves.
A successful student will ask for clarification or assistance
from professors. They are engaged and try to make the most
of their time in university."
Rosie Redfield, Assoc. Prof. of Zoology
"Recognize that ignorance and confusion are essential
components of all learning, for Nobel Prize winners as well
as students. If you try to hide your confusion it just gets
worse, but if you instead try to explain your problems to
others the ideas start falling into place. The point of being
at university is to discover what you don't understand and
learn how to find it out."
Ron Giammarino, Prof. of Finance
"Successful students are inherently curious. They want
to know more than the basic material in the textbook. They
study a broad range of topics, not just those that directly
benefit their careers but also ones that will give them a
more fundamental knowledge base. As a result, they can look
at issues from various angles and deeply understand the concepts
presented to them. This core motivation will help them understand
the material more completely so when they run into non-standard
questions they can use that well of knowledge."
10 Tips for Students from AMS Tutoring
1. Do all your assignments (even the ones not due for marks)
as neatly as you would do them if you were handing them in.
It will be easier to go back over your work and find mistakes
plus you'll get more out of the work if you take your time.
2. Pre-read for your classes. You will get more out of the
lectures. It is especially important to pre-read for labs
and language courses.
3. Prioritize your assignments, especially on those days
that you don't have time to do everything. A good method:
finish whatever is due for marks first, then move on to work
for classes where you are struggling, then work on whatever
4. Don't just keep track of an assignment's due date; make
dates to complete different parts of the assignment. e.g.
set a date to go to the library and have a deadline for completing
your research and rough draft.
5. Don't be afraid to talk to your professor or TA if you
are having difficulty or want clarification on an assignment.
6. When you miss a class, get notes from more than one person.
It will help you figure out what the most important points
of a lecture were - if the information appears in every set
of notes, it is definitely important.
7. Learn your study style. Do you stay on task better in
groups or alone? Do you stay more focussed in the morning
or at night?
8. Reward yourself. e.g. let yourself watch your favourite
TV show if you study for an hour. Giving yourself little breaks
and special treats will help you stay on task.
9. Don't try to do too much at once. Studying for 6 hours
straight is not the best idea. You will stay more focussed
if you study for shorter periods of time more often.
10. Don't pull all-nighters. You will retain more information
and perform better on tests if you are well rested.