Avoiding Problems with Your Professor

You and the Professor

Students and Faculty have suggested a number of ways to make the relationships you develop with your professors as rewarding as possible:

  1. Be prepared for your studies. Read the University Calendar, especially Sections 11 through 27, to become knowledgeable about your academic schedule and general university regulations. Read also the section on your faculty's regulations on academic standing. Ignorance of university regulations does not absolve you from infractions. You are responsible for understanding and following these regulations.
  2. Plan your academic program in advance and meet with a faculty advisor if necessary to ensure it meets the faculty's approval. It is your responsibility to meet the degree requirements of your faculty. The faculty requirements for a degree may change during the course of your program, so keep an annual update on program changes.
  3. If you have a complaint, approach your professor first. You can discuss your course requirements, teaching and learning methods, grading of assignments and exams, etc. Professors can guide you on ways to improve your grades and will listen to your academic concerns.
  4. Try to appreciate the variety of styles of teaching in your university classes. Teaching methods vary from instructor to instructor, from discipline to discipline and even within disciplines. So you should attempt to be more flexible in your approach to learning. Individual differences prevail and are usually refreshing. Most professors appreciate feedback on their teaching, but ensure that your criticism is constructive, not derogatory or slanderous. Emphasize the positive and request clarification or assistance. Be reasonable and fair with your requests.
  5. Professors are required to set office hours to meet with you. Schedule an appointment with your professor when you wish to discuss any part of your course, and specify the amount of time you require so that you will not be rushed through the discussion. Prior to your meeting, briefly outline on paper the major points you wish to cover. Question your instructor about the issues that trouble you in the course. Seek information rather than negative confrontation.
  6. Get your points across. Listen carefully to your professor's replies. Does his or her advice contain the answer you need to get back on track? If not, perhaps you should set a date for another appointment, especially if you feel that your academic performance needs monitoring. It is a good idea to keep brief dated notes of your discussion and any actions to be taken. Check the accuracy of your notes by summarizing what has been said with your professor. Emphasize diplomacy.
  7. Approach your problem constructively and objectively. It is easy to criticize others, and more difficult to offer solutions. Learning to accept the idiosyncracies, different ideologies, and teaching approaches of others demonstrates an educated mind. While you may disagree with your instructor's perspective, you should realize that the University respects different viewpoints so that professors can pursue their academic endeavors. Don't confuse different with illegal. A complaint about ideology is not justified, whereas one against racism or sexism is.
  8. Be on time for class. Arriving late repeatedly is distracting to your instructors and classmates. Many instructions are given at the beginning of the class. Remember that class time is limited.
  9. Inform your instructor if you have been unable to attend class for medical or domestic reasons. Instructors tend to be very helpful if you have a legitimate excuse for absence. Also use the support services (eg, counselling) on campus that will help you get back on track.
  10. Disruptive behavior will not be tolerated in the classroom. Your instructor has the right to request that you leave the class and the subsequent class for disruptive behavior. If you continue the negative behavior when you return to the class, the instructor may ask you to leave and may also lay a charge based on the University's Code of Student Behavior.

If you have followed these suggestions and are still dissatisfied, consult the chairman of the faculty in which the course is taught; also consult the Student OmbudService.

What other agencies exist on campus to assist you with learning to communicate with your professor? 

Student Success Centre
2-703 SUB, 780-492-2682
study skills - math skills - writing skills 

Counselling and Clinical Services 
2-600 SUB, 492-5205 
drop-in workshops - personal counselling 

Office of Safe Disclosure and Human Rights
312 Campus Tower, 492-7325
discrimination - sexual harassment 

Peer Support Centre
030P SUB, 492-4268
Peer counselling and support