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College Prep

Professors share how to succeed—and annoy them—in the classroom.

Cover your basics

“I got good grades in college, but I didn’t consider myself exceptionally brilliant. I was always somewhat puzzled by my success,” says Steven Fazzari, a Washington University economics professor. A big reason for his success: following directions. “When I started teaching, I learned that lots of student don’t do the basic work for the class.”

Get involved

“Interacting with other students not only widens your perspective, but seems to entail a change in attitude and enthusiasm that improves classroom performance,” notes Nick Zavediuk of Saint Louis University and St. Charles Community College. 

Defend your argument

“A student should have a clear reason for questioning a grade,” says Erin McGlothlin, an associate professor of German at Wash. U. “‘I worked hard on this’ is not a good reason.”

Avoid text speak

“I sometimes get emails where the students use the text-messaging style,” says Eike Bauer, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. “I sometimes don’t understand what they’re getting at. What does ‘idk’ mean? They should just write clearly what they want to know…and use complete sentences.”

Do the required reading

“A student who tries to contribute without having read what we’re discussing will not add anything useful to the conversation,” says Zavediuk. “Think of Steve Carell’s character in Anchorman—it’s kind of like that.”

Be honest

“I love it when my students ask honest quest-
ions,” says Ben Moore, a professor at Fontbonne University. “I love it when they say what they really think.”

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