Who gets the thumbs up?

March 13, 1998

What makes a lecturer a star among his or her students? Alison Utley asked some Bradford University students for their views

Caroline Welsh, an undergraduate at Bradford University, thought filmed celebrity lectures a very poor wheeze. "They would bore me stupid," she said. "Often the most famous people are the ones who forget the human element. They don't necessarily have the skill of imparting knowledge even though the content of their lecture might be good."

The lecturers guaranteed to fill every seat week after week are those who know how to talk to students as human beings, said Ms Welsh of the department of social and economic sciences. "But when you get that distinct feeling that they're just going through the motions in a boring monotone, we switch off easily. What we want is someone who can grab our attention, who wants to be there."

One of Helen McStravick's lecturers admitted to his class that he didn't find the work interesting. "He lost everyone instantly," she said.

The enthusiastic ones on the other hand took the trouble to change the structure of lectures from time to time and enjoyed what they were doing. They came across as interesting people and the students wanted to hear what they had to say.

"We need someone to look up to," said Ms McStravick, a first-year biomedical sciences student. If they managed to make the students laugh as well, so much the better. One of her tutors regularly performs card tricks during lectures.

For John Howard, now completing his final year in electronic and electrical engineering, the problem-based approach in lectures worked best.

"It's so much more stimulating than those lecturers who stand at the front and talk at us from notes," he said. "They are usually the ones who grumble when we ask them to slow down.

"It's as if the lectures are getting in the way of their real work, their research," he added.

Louise Cobb, third-year biomedical sciences, agreed. "Often they whip overheads on and off far too quickly. There's just too much information and most of the lecture is spent copying it all down."

A firm thumbs down went to those lecturers who arrive late, rush through the lecture, then leave before students have had the chance to ask questions. On the up side all agreed that the real stars were enthusiastic, approachable, light humoured, personable and above all organised.

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