In Praise of Poor Teachers

When I am looking through online textbook recommendations and professor evaluations, I occasionally come across the remark by a student something to the effect of, “ I had to learn the material by myself for this course!” This, I think, is meant to be an indictment against the professor. “I spent a ton of money to learn from this professor, but this person was so inept that I ended up having to learn it myself.” Certainly, there may be merit to this. However, it seems that throughout the whole of our lives we need to learn things “by ourselves” quite alot. The ability to take responsibility for our own learning and understanding of the world is an important life skill. Typically, we are required to learn about a topic of importance from the various resources that we have available to us: advice from other non-experts, internet research, focused inquiries to an expert, informational media, and personal experience. From this we make the best informed decision that we can. This may be learning about a particular medical condition, a new recreational activity, or a new skill that we need for our work. Therefore, the “poor teacher” who forces students to take responsibility for their own learning may be giving them the best learning experience of all.


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