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What Makes a Great Professor

When you think about what makes a great professor, a list of character traits comes to mind. These are the qualities of a good professor which makes them stand out head and shoulders above the others. They are related both to their expertise in a field of specialty but also to their passion for sharing it with their students.

What makes you a professor and not a teacher is your ability to guide your students to gain knowledge for themselves. A good professor doesn’t stand in front of a class and convey knowledge. They inspire their students to want to find out more and awaken their curiosities.

So, what makes a good college professor?

1. Great professors love the classroom

A passion for engaging with students is one of the essential qualities of a good professor. If a professor is teaching as an obligation to his/her tenure, their enthusiasm won’t be evident. When a professor is passionate about being in class, this comes across in many ways.

It is evident in their preparation for class. It is also evident in the way in which they engage with students. They allow students to ask questions or stay after class to follow up on what was discussed. What makes someone a professor is their willingness to inspire students to push themselves to reach their full potential.

2. Knowledge is what makes a professor exceptional

A good professor must have a sound understanding and knowledge of the specific subject. That’s why several years of study are required before an academic qualifies as a professor.

A great professor has the ability to share his/her knowledge in a meaningful way that students can relate to. Academics often have a great deal of knowledge, but they lack the skills needed to share it. They stand before a lecture hall filled with thirsty young minds but lose them by not making the content relevant and understandable.

They speak on a level about the subject that their peers might understand but which sounds like Greek to their students. This can cause students to question their academic choices. They may even opt to switch classes.

3. Great professor qualities relate to assessment

What makes someone a professor is their desire to see their students succeed. A good professor will challenge students to go beyond their comfort zones and seek out more knowledge. But when setting an examination or assignment, a great professor makes sure that it’s relevant to what was covered in class.

He/she also makes sure that students understand what is expected of them. One of the most important professor qualities is using assessment as an opportunity to see if students can apply the skills and knowledge they have gained. Assessment should not be designed to trip students up, but rather to give them a chance to showcase what they have learned.

4. What makes a good professor is making time

A great professor makes time for his/her students, whether they are high fliers or strugglers. They have set open office hours where students can drop in with additional questions.

A professor may find that a student understands the work but needs motivation and encouragement because of external factors. When a professor shows an interest in a student, the student is more likely to push themselves to succeed. The five main factors that affect a student’s motivation level are:

  1. teaching style
  2. mentorship
  3. the feedback from the professor
  4. the climate of the classroom and the college
  5. the teaching pedagogy

A student who feels free to approach a professor will go the extra mile to do well in his/her class. A great professor also makes time to offer feedback on assessment to students who need it. He/she makes sure students know which areas they need to improve on.

5. A great professor engages with students

If you’re in a classroom with a good professor, he/she engages the class in such a way as to keep them hooked. A professor may use humor to grab everyone’s attention before getting to the day’s content.

It is shared with students in a manner that makes them want to listen and learn more. Part of teaching is entertainment. A professor must ‘switch things up’ to keep students focused. Asking questions and encouraging participation is essential.

If students don’t feel engaged and part of the learning process, they switch off. The professor’s passion for the subject and his/her ability to make it come alive ensure that students not only attend classes but look forward to them. It inspires them to go beyond the course requirements and learn even more.

6. A good professor treats his/her students equally

Every classroom is made up of a dichotomy of students. They come from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and their approaches to study are different. They also have varying academic abilities. A great professor understands this and uses it to make his/her teaching even more effective.

He/she doesn’t only call on the so-called ‘clever’ students to answer questions. Everyone is encouraged to give their input and join in discussions.

This type of professor makes sure that at the end of the lesson every student has grasped the concept he/she is teaching. When giving feedback and during open office hours, a great professor makes him/herself available to all students.

7. A professor keeps his/her word

A good professor doesn’t make promises he/she cannot keep. If they say grades will be posted on a particular date, they stick to it. If they promise to follow up on something in the next class, they mean it. They don’t just say it to keep the lesson moving. One of the easiest ways a professor can gain a student’s trust and loyalty is to show their own commitment to keeping their word.

When professors make promises that they don’t keep, students tend to keep them at arm’s length because they don’t feel they can trust them. They also might feel it’s not worth the trouble of going to any extra effort for the professor.

8. An outstanding professor shows their humanity

In a classroom situation, humanity is a two-way street. A great professor does not see his/her students as numbers. He/she sees them as multi-faceted human beings motivated by different factors.

When a student chooses to confide a personal problem in a professor, he/she is willing to listen and give advice. He/she may refer the student to someone for help.

Above all, when it comes to classwork and assessment, what makes you a professor is your ability to show kindness and care toward students when it is necessary. At the same time, a professor can use his/her classroom to show his/her own humanity by sharing the odd detail about their personal life.

It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shattering. But these personal touches make students feel more connected to a professor. They see that the professor is as human as they are, which makes them feel more at ease.

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