What Makes a Good Professor?


Whether or not you’ve been at UTM for a while, you’re bound to have a favourite and least favourite professor. I know I do! In my experience, a professor can make or break your interest in a subject.

About a year ago, I wrote a post about a professor that I did not get along with. This professor was inconsiderate, pompous, and patronizing, but they also had some good qualities, like their presentation skills and overall knowledge about the subject. Ever since then, I’ve been hyper-conscious about “good” and “bad” professors. So, why do some profs appeal to us more than others?

1) Engagement and interactivity

I had a professor in summer school after my second year who made an effort to create a community within the classroom. There were about 30 to 40 students in the lecture and it was only a half credit, but this professor made an effort to know everyone’s names. I had her again last semester, and she did the same thing. Most of her classes were discussion-based, and she was really good at facilitating learning through different activities instead of just a solid lecture. I find that a professor who makes an effort to engage with students is better than a professor who talks to everyone like they are a number instead of a person.

2) Passion about the subject

Intelligence is attractive! I have an English professor this semester whose love for her area of literature shines through her classes. The lecture hall teems with about 150 students who come back every week. This professor has so much to say about literature that my wrist aches with all of the information she offers my notes. She reads a lot, is animated and funny when she speaks, and keeps me hanging on every word she says. I think that a professor who has concrete points to make about their subject keeps my attention and interest alive. I am not interested in or paying for unrelated tangents.

3) Humility and confidence

A good balance between these two traits can result in a stellar professor. You can often pick up how much of each trait a professor has through their presentation skills; we know that they are highly educated and knowledgeable, but in the classroom, they are sharing their knowledge with us. A professor who doesn’t patronize us yet is confident in their subject and ability to present is amazing! One of my first-year professors was a great presenter—I’m sure that the majority of the 500 of us respected his experience in the field, but in front of us, he was humbly there to share. I met this professor again this year, and he is just as brilliant to speak with one-on-one. He was open to my ideas, yet offered his expertise in conversation.

4) Support and availability

One of my professors this semester always reinforces that she is available to help our class with our essays and assignments. If her office hours don’t work for someone, she is always willing to set up another appointment to chat. I find this extremely helpful because she marks our assignments, so it is beneficial to have her feedback before handing something in. \I didn’t attend one of her recent lectures but had to pick up some materials for the next assignment from her office. As she handed them to me, she smiled and briefly ensured that I was on the right track with the assignment, and told me that “big ideas form in big spaces”. It was truly reassuring. We need to use the support that is offered—go to office hours and talk to your profs!

What makes your favourite prof your favourite? Let’s appreciate our great professors and try to find the good in the bad ones. Feel free to use my guidelines listed above as food for thought.