In a previous post (since lost in a botched wordpress update) about my ‘strategic’ plan through my MBA program, deciding what classes to take, etc, I was debating my overall approach. The question was whether to take the more challenging professors so that I’d ostensibly (important word) learn more and get more out of those classes, or to try and take some easier ones to keep my load more level. The opinion among my fellow classmates is pretty split, for what it’s worth.
At the time, my inclination was to take the harder classes, so that I’d get the most out of things. Since then, however, I have learned a few things.
First, just because a professor is ‘interesting’ and ‘challenging’ doesn’t mean he or she is good. One professor I had supposed really made you think more, but he also didn’t cover any of the course material. He also challenged students to think critically and voice their opinions. However, that just devolved into actual arguments with him over semantics and meaning. It was ridiculous. All of this would have been fine, except that we were still quizzed on the course material, I seemed to be the only person taking the reading seriously, and I wanted to go over the course material. So a professor that is merely “interesting” isn’t good enough.
Second, some professors that are tenured – and this goes for any school/discipline/etc – are just riding out the wave. They lose track of why they are teaching. And sometimes they lose sight of how to structure a course. There is one professor, in economics, who, depending on whom you ask, is either really challenging and makes you learn a lot at a fast pace or is just mean and difficult for the heck of it. While I would love to take the class twice – once with someone else and once with him – to find out which of those two is his actual approach, I have no interest (nor much respect) in taking a class where the professor is difficult just for the heck of it. So, again, need to read between the lines.
Finally, there are some disciplines in which I am simply weak. I am not good at Finance. The complexities of portfolio construction, cost of capital – that’s just hard for me. I get the basic tools but the harder ones just fly by me and I have to work really hard. Does that mean I take the easy professors’ Actually, no. But I do take the ones where it’s a bit more open and loosely-structured of a course, where I can absorb information without being overloaded with assignments.
Fortunately, for Econ, I found a professor that was a good middle ground between one who is known for being relatively easy and the one who is extremely difficult. And in general, I still do seek professors who will challenge me. But I am now a lot more careful about what ‘challenge’ means and think about how I learn, how I want to interact with teachers, etc.
My reviews, over time, will illustrate the lessons I’ve learned in choosing professors.