Important Note: To help students understand more about what the UT Arlington faculty members expect of their new college students, the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, a committee of UT Arlington’s award-winning professors, collaborated to write this section for you.
Faculty expectations of students are focused on two primary areas: (1) interacting with the subject matter and (2) developing and maintaining respectful relationships.
Focus #1: Interacting with the Subject Matter
One of our goals as university professors is to help students become knowledgeable in a specific topic or subject area that is applicable to life situations or relevant for future learning. For example, English majors learn about poetic structures, writing styles, different types of literature, and strategies for writing a thought- provoking essay. In contrast, nursing majors learn about pathophysiology, medications, disease processes, and techniques for providing nursing care. We want students to integrate the acquired knowledge into their own lives. English majors gain an appreciation for a historic novel, and nursing majors use their course readings and lab practice to assess a patient. Because we have this goal for you as a student, we have higher expectations of you and your work as a college student. Most importantly, you, the student, are expected to take responsibility for your own learning. One UT Arlington professor conveyed this idea in this way: “taking ownership of your education, being proactive to maximize your learning.”
Higher Standards in Thinking: The Universal Intellectual Standards
Thinking about the quality of your thinking and reasoning—a process often referred to as metacognition—is one of the best ways to begin stretching your critical thinking. Consider this list of Universal Intellectual Standards and associated questions as ways to develop deeper levels of thinking.
- Clarity: Oftentimes, you cannot determine if something is accurate or relevant unless you have more information. Ask, “Can you elaborate further on that point?” or “Can you give me an illustration, example, etc.?”
- Accuracy: A statement can be clearly presented, but then you have to ask, “Is it true?” In addition, ask, “How could we check that information?”
- Precision: A statement might be true and even accurate, but then you must ask, “Can you be more specific?” or “Can you give me more details?”
- Relevance: Statements may be clear, true, and precise, but that does not necessarily mean the information presented is relevant to the discussion at hand. Ask, “How is that information connected to the question?”
- Depth: Some statements can be superficial, such as the “Just Say No!” campaign. It is a clear, accurate, precise, and relevant statement, but it lacks depth into the issue and reasons for drug use. Ask questions like, “Are you taking into account the problems in the question?” or “Are their complexities not being considered?”
- Breadth: Statements may not include all points of view. Ask questions like, “What would this look like from a conservative or liberal point of view?” or “Is there another way to look at the statement?”
- Logic: Often, as we are thinking, we are bringing information from many different locations and putting it together into a new thought. Ask questions like, “Does it make sense?” or “Does that thought follow from what was presented previously?”
Adapted from Paul, R. and Elder, L. (1996). Foundation for Critical Thinking, online at Web site www.criticalthinking.org/
So, what about grades? In short, we don’t assign grades: you earn them. As a college student, you will be assessed based on your performance (and not, for example, simply because you tried hard). Paying tuition provides access to learning opportunities but does not imply that a faculty member will give you a high grade merely for registering for and attending the course. Because grades are earned rather than given, you should expect learning to be hard work. At- tending classes is an important indicator that you value your investment and are committed to learning. Interaction with faculty members and fellow students is an essential part of the educational process that promotes personal and professional growth. Another indicator that you value your investment is the effort you make to complete assignments and readings on time. At the university, learning occurs at least as much outside of the classroom as it does inside the classroom. Between classes, we expect you to engage in study, reading, and thought—behaviors that require discipline and a commitment of significant amounts of time. In most cases, for every hour you spend in class (e.g., in a lecture), you should plan to spend at least three hours either preparing for or completing assignments for that class. If you’re spending 15 hours per week in class (approximately 5 courses), then your “homework” time should come to at least 45 hours each week—minimally.
Comments from Members of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, UT Arlington
- Do your best and attempt to exceed your best. Just “getting by” shortchanges your significant financial investment in this course.
- As a professor, I give priority to this course in my schedule. I request that you do the same.
- Remember the more you put into the course, the more you will get out of it.
- Read widely, question, and analyze. You have the tasks of learn- ing and evaluating that content. Shoot for improving thinking skills such as evaluating, critiquing, and synthesizing, as well as learning facts. Try to look at the content from different perspectives. Additionally, read beyond the textbook as much as you can from the recommended reading list.
One part of being responsible for your own learning means that you will only submit class assignments you completed yourself. When you use information from a book, periodical, or the Internet, you must cite the source appropriately and list the source in the reference list or bibliography. In addition, you should never consult fellow students for answers or share your answers unless the assignment is being completed as part of a team project or the faculty member has clearly stated that collaboration is expected (Refer to “Chapter 6: Avoiding the Hazards Along the Way,” “Academic Integrity” section for more information). If you are unsure if you should consult with others on an assignment, it is acceptable to ask your professor.
Attending classes, completing all of your reading, and successfully completing your own work in each class requires self-discipline, time management, and organization. As a UT Arlington professor noted, “In recognition that you have many things going on in life, set time aside for this course each week for class attendance, reading and assignments and be sure to keep that time prioritized for this course.” Another faculty member noted that class attendance is especially important in professional schools because class interaction promotes professional socialization. Use a calendar program on a cell phone or computer to note when assignments are due, and schedule automatic reminders so that you start the assignment early enough to be able to complete it on time. Remember that obtaining library sources for a research project or reading 200 pages will take time. Be sure to allow time for each step of the process necessary to successfully complete the assignment. If you have questions, review the syllabus and class notes first so that, when you ask the teacher for more information, you are not asking for information that has already been provided.
Focus #2: Developing and Maintaining Respectful Relationships
We believe learning is more likely to occur in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Respectful communication includes calling professors by appropriate titles, speaking appropriately to fellow students, and minimizing classroom distractions, such as texting or browsing the Web during a class. Creating an atmosphere of interpersonal respect allows students to feel more secure and able to take the risk of being exposed to new ideas. Willingness to be exposed to ideas with which you may not be familiar or agree, provides opportunities to grow in knowledge and as a person. Classroom distractions such as noisily arriving late or carrying on side conversations interfere with the other students’ ability to learn. Missing classes also shows disrespect for the professor and for the course.
Your interaction with the subject matter and the maintenance of respectful relationships are essential for your intellectual growth toward critical thinking— the ability to appraise information for credibility and relevance and to integrate the new information with what you already know.
What Should I Call My Professor?
In high school, students typically address their teachers as “Mrs. X” or “Ms. Y” or “Mr. Z.” In the university context, however, knowing how to address an instructor becomes a bit more complicated. In nearly every case, it’s fully appropriate to refer to your instructor as “Professor So-and-So.” If, however, you know that your professor holds a doctoral degree, then it’s also appropriate to address him/ her as “Dr. So-and-So.” What’s important is that you use both a title (“Professor” or “Doctor”) and his/her last name. Doing so conveys not only respect for the instructor but also your knowledge of academic culture. By the way, there are some instructors on our campus who might prefer that you address them in a different way, using “Mr.” or “Ms.” or simply a first name. If so, feel free to do so—but don’t presume!
- How are college professors different from high school teachers?
- What do college professors expect from their students?