One of the many advantages of a UT education is access to diverse faculty and instruction. Learning from different perspectives enables us to solve any problem.
However, a student’s experience in a course can vary wildly depending on the professor. This variance creates an uneven playing field for students working hard to achieve academic success.
Professors have the right to choose the education style of their class. However, students also deserve equal opportunities to be successful. To balance the rights of professors and students, professors must collaborate with each other throughout the semester and commit to consistent standards for content delivery.
Many students have stories of inconsistency between professors in different sections of the same class.
“Different professors (for the same class) can make it a matter of learning versus surviving,” civil engineering junior An Nguyen said. “Some professors made the course an easy A without truly teaching the subject, while others pushed us harder to retain more knowledge at the expense of our grades.”
While professors enjoy the freedom of commanding their own courses, it should not come at the price of student performance.
“UT needs more consistency among professors for sure,” Nguyen said. “It’s a big problem (students face).”
Mechanical engineering junior Brynn Freemyer has had similar experiences.
“I know many students who have dropped courses solely because of their professor,” Freemyer said. “It felt like your performance was predetermined by the instructor. I’d love to see better oversight so that we can all have an equal opportunity to learn the material.”
In such cases, it’s difficult to imagine students are equally prepared. When different sections vary in difficulty and leniency, students do not have a fair opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.
The struggle is balancing the wishes of professors who have earned the right to educate students in a way they see fit with students who deserve to be equally prepared regardless of the instructor.
“How we decide to deliver content is truly up to each professor, and I would not want that right taken away,” Raissa Ferron, an associate professor of civil engineering, said. “It allows for creative delivery of information.”
Ferron raises an excellent point: We don’t want to police how instructors teach. It’s important that we are exposed to new perspectives that challenge us to think in new ways, and this is rightfully at the discretion of the instructor.
What is also important, however, is that students have an equal ability to succeed regardless of their instructor. That doesn't always feel possible. If professors discuss and agree on their own standards for effective delivery, we can solve these problems.
Ferron recognizes the benefits of professors working together to best reach their students, but not all are required to do so.
“I often discuss with my colleagues what I’m teaching, but nowhere is it stipulated that we have to do that,” Ferron said. “It would be beneficial for faculty members who are not collaborating with each other (to) have discussions to see what methods work for them.”
Sharing methods and outlining clear and consistent goals pushes instructors to grow while still allowing them to choose what they want to teach. Students then also get a fair chance to demonstrate their knowledge of a subject.
Additionally, if instructors meet on their own throughout the semester, they would have the opportunity to better evaluate their own performance. With course evaluations, professors may not have the opportunity to improve until it’s too late for the current students.
Students and faculty share the goal of having a top-tier academic experience. While UT continues to work towards achieving this standard of excellence each day, accountability must come from the top down. Professors, come together and give your students a level playing field.
Lee is a civil engineering junior from Plano, TX.