Going to College

Transcript: Faculty expectations

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Hey, guys, this is Dr. Marianne Miller. And I’m an Associate Professor and Assistant Chair in the Department of Management in the school of Business at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. And I am here to talk to you about the kinds of things that faculty are likely to expect of you in a college classroom.

First and foremost, make sure that you read something called the syllabus. Now, if you haven’t heard of a syllabus before and are wondering what beast that is, it is a document that you will receive at the beginning of the semester that has an outline of what’s going to go on in the course. It has where you can contact the Professor, where her or his office might be located, what the phone number is, email address, when they have office hours, which are designated times during the week when they are available in their office to answer your questions, or just chat with you about whatever you need to discuss with them, Class administrative policies, unattendance and grading, and all those other kinds of things that you’re going to care about. And, [inaudible] sort of a map of where the course is going to take you, when are your assignments due, when are your exams, what are your reading assignments, and when should you have covered certain material. So be familiar with that, that’s going to tell you an awful lot, if not everything of what you need to know about the mechanics of a class, and what’s going to go on in there, and how you’re going to be evaluated. And that’s a document in which faculty often very explicitly lay out their expectations of you. So make sure that you have a syllabus, and that you’ve read it, and refer to it when you need to.

Another thing that faculty members are going to expect is that you do attend class regularly, and that you are reasonably attentive while you are in class, and hopefully that you’re taking notes, however you do that. Whether you do that manually, or whether you may have a note taker, or whether you use a laptop. Sometimes faculty members do cover material that isn’t in the book that they assigned. And sometimes they’ll flag you about that, and [inaudible] with a big hint, [inaudible], oh, and by the way, this isn’t in the book. So you darn well better make sure you’re writing that stuff down, because if you go to find it in the book later, it’s not going to be there. So taking notes and coming to class are two very, very good ideals.

Another thing that faculty members will expect from you is that you will have read the assigned material on or approximately on the day that it was assigned. And there are multiple reasons for that. One is, you know, it’s a bad ideal to try to do all of the readings that assigned over several weeks, you know, at one time. It’s not a good ideal, for example, when you’re trying to study for an exam that you decide, oh I’ll wait to read all the material the night before. Okay, that’s a bad plan; you don’t won’t to do that, because the amount of reading that you’re going to be assigned in college is significantly higher then what you experienced in high school, okay? So when a professor assigns reading across class sessions, that’s really to help you out. You can just cover a chunk of material at the time. And it’s probably still going to seem like a lot, at any one, for any one class or any one sitting. Do make an effort to have read that material. Why? Another reason why, it actually can help you listen better, because some of the terminology, the concepts, the processes that are being described in the reading, whatever it’s about, that’s what the professor’s going to be talking about that day. And so, you know, as the professor is talking, you may have moments where you think, oh, oh, that’s what that was, oh, that’s how you pronounce that word, oh, that’s why I didn’t understand what was being said in the book. It’s sound; you may have a better, more attentive listening in class, if you sort of primed your brain to be ready to hear from the professor what you’ve read the night before or the day before.

And lastly, if you have questions, another expectation that a faculty member has is that you will actually ask them. Ask your questions in class. Or if you’re one of those people who would just rather die then say anything in class, if you have questions, write them down as they come to you, and then stop and talk with the professor after class, or stop in at the faculty member’s office hours. Those designated days and times that the faculty member agrees to be in her or his office so you can stop by and ask questions, or talk about things that are important to you. So it is important, and faulty do expect you to initiate contact with them.

If a faculty member knows who you are, that’s usually a good thing, [inaudible]; a lot of students think it’s better for faculty to not know who they are, for them to be anonymous. I disagree with that, completely. Some day you might want or need a letter of recommendation from a faculty member for graduate school, or to get a good job after you finish college. It’s good to be able to have established some relationships with faculty members who are interesting to you. If you’re a little on the shy side, I really want to encourage you to get over that, and see if you can, you put yourself out there a little bit, because, you know, frankly, sometimes faculty members are, you know, kind of shy people too. And, you know, they like it when students come to them with questions, or show an interest in the class, that’s a good thing.

Some particular recommendations that I might have for students with disabilities to help ease their way in college a bit, and you know, I say this with not only the expertise of being a faculty member myself, but also being a person with a disability. I have a visual impairment. I would recommend that you do register yourself with your college or university’s Office of Disability Support Services, or whatever name, you know, that unit has at your particular college or university. Why do you want to do that? Because if you do need accommodations in class, you know, a faculty member does not have to accommodate you, if you’re not registered with that office, and have not self identified to your college or university. So it is in your best interest to be registered. Whether or not you actually seek out then accommodations in your classes is for you to decide. And you can do that on a class by class bases. Sometimes the way certain courses are setup and structured, and the way the faculty member delivers them, you might find that that you really don’t need any accommodation. And in other courses you might find that you need more accommodation then you might of anticipated because of how a class is structured. So do go ahead and register, though, that’s the first step. Make sure that your college or university knows that you are a student with a disability.

And then the second part or second step after that is to self identify to your individual faculty members, to give them a heads up that you might need accommodation, you might not. I know certainly a whole lot of student give me their disability notification forms at the beginning of the semester, happens, you know, in every class, I’ll get at least one, sometimes more then one, with examples of the kinds of accommodations that a student might need. But I have to honesty say, that I’ve had very few occasions where I’ve had to truly utilize those suggestions. I happen to structure my courses in a way that students haven’t needed much if anything in the way of accommodations. That may be less true for other kinds of subjects then what I teach. And it may be, certainly it’s going to be very dependent on what a student’s disability is. So it is important for you to let a faculty member know very early in the semester, give them a heads up. Your disability support services office may have a form for you to give to faculty members. And, you know, after you’ve identified yourself to that faculty member, as the course moves along, as, for example, [inaudible] exam dates approach, again just give that faculty member a heads up that, say you were going to need a separate testing location that didn’t have distractions. Just give the faculty member a reminder, maybe a week ahead of time. And if the faculty member isn’t familiar with how to do that, and they may not be, if they haven’t had a student to ask for that particular accommodation before, you know, you actually are in a position to give them some information. You actually have a little bit of power there if you know how the system work, and you can describe to the faculty member who they can contact, and, for more information, and how you’ve had that situation handled in other classes.

In most cases the faculty member is going to be very appreciate that you took responsibility for keeping them up to speed, and helping them out with the information that they need to provide the accommodation that you need, so that they can really find out what you’ve learned. Evaluate your learning in a manner that’s appropriate, given whatever your disability might be. So it really serves you well to manage that relationship as best you can. That helps you, and frankly, it’s probably going to help the faculty member learn something about working with students who have disabilities.

Okay, that’s all for now. Bye.

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