What makes a class bad?

Everyone has sat through a few clunkers between first grade and college degree. And everyone has a personal pet peeve, the one thing that really annoys them in class. Some peeves are a little unreasonable, such as the student evaluation accusing the teacher of "moving his head like a damned duck." Others are perhaps more reasonable: I know my blackboard penmanship needs improvement. I'm trying, hey, I'm trying. But I personally used to hate instructors who pontificate on any irrelevant subject for 50 minutes, but then test you on the material they should have covered.

But while we all have a few bad days, we're talking here about the REALLY BAD class. What makes a class really crummy? Well, university administrators actually have some standard guidelines. For starters, if

* student evaluations are consistently poor;
* the drop rate is high;
* the number of students flunked is high;
* and the faculty member responds, "well, I guess they just aren't properly prepared for the material" instead of "how can I do better?"

...then you have a really BAD class.

You may think these bad classes lurk forever in the course schedule like Death in a pack of Tarot cards. This may have been true once. But nowadays, with universities asking for more and more accountability from professors, and asking new faculty to be more and more highly educated and prepared to teach, bad classes aren't usually tolerated for years. A number of things may happen, some of them dire. Someone else may take over the class. The class may be eliminated for good. The faculty member may be sent packing, if he or she is not tenured yet. Or most dire, the entire department may be eliminated. Departments which tolerate weak faculty and poor classes become targets for administrators looking to cut budgets (and when aren't they, nowadays?).

The point is: as a student, your voice DOES matter.

Copyright 2004 by Ross F. Collins <www.ndsu.edu/communication/collins>