Characteristics of an Ideal Professor

Smiling college professor at the front of classroom.
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An ideal professor is more than just a funnel of knowledge. A dynamic classroom experience hinges on the ability of a professor to instigate learning and create an environment that sparks questioning and involvement. When you’ve had a teacher who imparts knowledge through class discussion and values challenging thoughts and ideas, you’ve found an ideal professor.

1 Organized and Provides Clear Expectations

An initial sign of a seasoned professor is a detailed syllabus that clearly outlines course requirements. In the first day of class, an ideal professor breaks down course expectations and helps you feel as though the class is manageable and valuable. There should be no question about the assignments or the way your performance will be evaluated. If you’re uncertain, an effective professor will welcome questions and provide a thorough response.

2 Ability to Impart Knowledge and Expertise

It’s sensible to expect a college professor to be an expert in her field, but the ideal professor will exude mastery of the subject. Course content is delivered in a way that encourages students to make an instant connection to the learning outcomes. An ideal professor provides interactive activities that help students get to know one another and become immersed in the material. Self-confidence is even evident in how students are encouraged to challenge new ideas. A masterful professor encourages free debate and critical analysis of lecture points.

3 Creates a Positive Learning Environment

All professors are responsible for managing the classroom and leading the course, but an ideal professor gets all students to contribute without being a micromanager. The best professors encourage student dialogue but don't allow individual students to stifle classmates or dominate discussions. An effective professor has private conversations with problem students to correct abusive or inappropriate behavior.

4 Fair and Student Centered

An ideal professor is committed to knowing each student and schedules out-of-class time for individual student meetings. Informal interaction with students provides an opportunity for exceptional professors to evaluate their own performance in the classroom. A faculty member who cares about the whole student reinforces that teaching is a passion, not just a job. Students respect critical feedback from a professor who is fair and committed to their success. For example, if you receive a low grade on an assignment along with feedback about how to improve your grade, you’re more likely to respect the professor and be motivated to do better.

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years. She has numerous publications with Talico, Inc., DynaTEAM Consulting, Inc. and Kinect Education Group.