Tag Archives: professor

CollegeQandA asks: What will be on the test?

What will be on the test?

This question can also be phrased, “will this be on the test?”

For students, this is an important question.  For teachers, this is a frustrating question to hear more than once.  How do you figure out what’s on the test, but also, turn yourself into a good learner and not just a test gamer?

FRustrated man screaming

Student perspective of tests

Tests are pretty common in courses.  Tests can be one of the main assessments that then are converted into your overall grade in a course.  Students need to get good grades, and therefore, knowing and understanding what is on a test is fundamental to getting those good grades.

Teacher perspective of tests

Learning the material is common in all courses.  Tests can be a good and easier than others assessment that shows if students have learned the course material.  An overall grade shows how well students have learned the material (though I don’t really agree with this).  Testing helps determine a students grade in the course.

Some of education’s bigger perspective

The goal is to learn.  Real understanding can not be easily tested, and the learning process takes a significant amount of time for both teacher and student to achieve and assess.  How can we teach and learn important skills, understanding, and complexities with tests?  We probably can’t, and equally, grades are a poor signal in terms of how each of us will perform in the real world with complexity.

The reality perspective

So, you are going to have tests as a student, and many of us professors will use tests as time-reasonable assessments for what you understand in our courses.  Coming from a perspective of wanting to learn and understand and willingness to work on learning, be curious, and understand the world better will serve you well.

If you need to figure out what is, likely, on the test, then pay attention to your professor in lectures, do the class work (readings, assignments, and projects), and find more senior students to understand past testing trends.  In lecture, emphasis of ideas, points, and skills are strong indicators that the material will appear on a test.  Does the professor underline writing?  Is there a significant number of problems dedicated to a particular idea?  Many professors (myself included) plain and simple say, “and this would be an excellent question on an exam”.  Those signals are strong indicators that the material will be tested in the future.

Also, the past can be a strong predictor of the future.  Students who have previously taken the course will have a feel for what professors will ask on their exams.  Make friends with other students and ask about their experiences.  However, understand that we all have biases and you are the one who does or doesn’t benefit from learning.

Credits: photo titled: frustration; by Rakesh Rocky


CollegeQandA asks: How are professors trained to teach?

How are professors trained to teach?

An interesting question that not many undergraduates understand is: How are professors trained to teach?

Baby with glasses on

The secret is, most of us are not trained in any teaching.  Graduate degrees (Masters and Ph.Ds.) are degrees pursuing leading edge research and creative endeavors.  Many of your professors will have no formal training in education other than some basic courses.

Why do they have no training?

Many graduate schools around the world have programs that help train graduate students to teach.  Typically, new faculty will have orientation and additional programs/workshops to help them improve their classroom teaching.  In the end, with all this training a professor will have spent at most 20-40 hours of educational training.  Compare that time to a typical higher education class worth 3 credit hours.  Over 15 weeks, student’s will have had at least 45 hours of class time on the topic of the class.

So, professors will have some training in education, but in reality, the training is very limited, but the rest of the learning to teach is done (or not done) by ourselves.  The reason for this is that teaching training is not a priority within higher education.  Instead, there seems to be a mentality of I learned this way and this stuff, and therefore, my students can also learn this way and this stuff.  There’s not a huge problem with this mentality since for decades the model has worked, and people still get careers and work in their respective fields.

Is there a case for improvement?

As an engineer (not practicing), I’m not too crazy about my above argument.  One of my question is if professors are better teachers then, on average, will our students learn more?  I don’t have any direct research to answer this question.  I, at least, believe that universities could make some real attempt at testing this crazy question.  Many schools have taking a dedication to teaching and learning.  Is your school one?

Credits: photo titled: Professor Baby; by Quinn Dombrowski



CollegeQandA book review: The Professor Is In

Book Review: The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job

The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job book cover

The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job by Kelsky is the essential guide to finding an academic position.  After reading the book, I wonder how I, actually, got an academic job in the first place.

The book is packed with information about academic jobs including the process both from the interviewee and interviewers perspectives.  Over ten sections that are an organized presentation of much of the information provided on her blog, the reader is presented with focused quality advice about the academic search.  Even if you have a great graduate advisor who is mentoring you to achieve your goals, this book is an essential read and resource for you.  Even in my current existing position, I believe the information in this book is invaluable in understanding the process.

I have now been on both sides of the academic job hunt, and the books insights are dead on.  I think I have recommended this book to every Ph.D. candidate I’ve met since reading the book.

Does this book relate to CollegeQandA?

This book is about preparing to find an academic job. There is a loose relation to CollegeQandA, but for those of you who are considering trying to join the professorate this book provides a realistic and well thought out plan and execution for the process.  This is also a valuable resource for faculty members in their attempts to mentor their students.

I would recommend this book to…

This book is useful for anyone looking to apply and get an academic job. The details in this book are a treasure trove for job hunters, and every graduate student should own this book to understand the process. Arguably, you should read this book before pursuing a graduate degree to understand what the academic job market is like and how you might succeed in it.


CollegeQandA book review: Mapping your Academic Career

Book Review: Mapping Your Academic Career: Charting the Course of a Professor’s Life

Mapping Your Academic Career: Charting the Course of a Professor's Life book cover

Mapping Your Academic Career: Charting the Course of a Professor’s Life is written by a Gary Burge a professor of theology at Wheaton College.  The book is one of the few books that attempts to provide faculty at universities with an understanding of the 3 major stages of an academic career.  The book is short, but provides a good model for faculty trying to understand their career path – of which I am one.

The key parts of the model is the three cohorts as he calls them:

  1. Will I Find Security?
  2. Will I Find Success?
  3. Will I Find Significance?

These three cohorts map to tenure track, post tenure, and senior professor, and within each stage the book provides details and suggestions about what is happening and what you should be be doing during each of these phases.

These types of books (academic careers) are very rare.  I went into our university library searching for the literature in this domain.  In our library, there were shelves of books dedicated to tenure track life, but only 2 books on mid-career academics.  This book, which is not in our university collection, is the best of the 3 books I’ve read on mid-career issues in academia, and for the few of you who are in a similar boat to mine, I think this book will be useful to you.

Does this book relate to CollegeQandA?

This book relates to our themes from the professor perspective.  Most of what I write, however, focuses on the undergraduate experience, so the relation is loose.  Still, the quality of the book and niche it fills meant I had to write a quick review to help get the word out.

I would recommend this book to…

This book is meant for tenure track, mid-career, and senior professors.  If you are thinking of pursuing an academic career as a graduate student this book might provide some insight on what a full career might involve.


CollegeQandA book review: A Concise Guide to Improving Student Learning

Book Review: A Concise Guide to Improving Student Learning: Six Evidence-Based Principles and How to Apply Them

A Concise Guide to Improving Student Learning: Six Evidence-Based Principles and How to Apply Them book cover
A Concise Guide to Improving Student Learning: Six Evidence-Based Principles and How to Apply Them is written by Persellin and Daniels and provides a number of research-backed ideas on how to teach more effectively – and by teaching the meaning is having students learn and retain the knowledge.

This book is small (78 pages of ideas) and is intended as a quick point of reference for busy, early, and interested professors and teachers to help them learn about how student learning can be improved via a better class.   This is presented organized by 6 principles:

  1. Challenge students early
  2. Spaced repetition
  3. Emotional connection to material
  4. Multisensory teaching and learning
  5. Small group learning
  6. Formative assessment or Low-stakes assessment

For each principle, there are a number of techniques that are briefly described to facilitate them, and everything is evidence-backed by briefly annotated research papers as related to the principle.

Finally, the appendixes include quick prescriptions (the authors call these “workshops”) to help teachers create syllabi, open and close a class, and prepare for classes.  All of this is done in 78 pages, and obviously, the focus is on introducing these ideas with references for deeper inquiry.

Does this book relate to CollegeQandA?

This book is primarily focused on helping teachers and professors quickly get familiar with innovations (backed by research) in learning theory and practice.  It is very relevant to one of this sites major themes – learning.  And because of this it is highly related to CollegeQandA.

I would recommend this book to…

Firstly, this book is recommended for the professor or teacher who wants a quick preview to a number of ideas on improving learning in their classes.  The ideas are not discussed in depth in this book, but that is not the goal.  Instead, this is a great resource for starting your exploration into improving teaching and learning.

Secondly, this book is recommended for learners (students).  Of course, the problem is you (as a student) can’t implement these ideas in the classes you are in, but you can use the concepts in your study sessions and overall learning strategies.  Just because the professor is not promoting a learning environment does not mean you still don’t have to learn the material.  Therefore, these techniques will help you maximize your learning.


CollegeQandA’s Related Links: Save for college; return Prof talks of student myths; jobs in USA where are they; business and education; Kindergarten and College; Undergraduate where doesn’t matter;

Here’s some related links about college and stuff from the week: