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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 equal information."

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 class."

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."

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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 is left.

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.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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