Peer Talk: Four Traits that Separate Good from Great Professors

Kelechi Ikegwu

I have taken many courses from a variety of professors throughout college. I found some of my professors to be good at what they do. However, there were professors that I considered to be great and I enjoyed their lectures. Over the years I realized that all of the great professors that I have learned from shared four traits.

An important trait that I have observed from great professors is their passion about the subject matter. Students generally are not enthusiastic about a subject if the professor is not. I believe that the only way to truly make students enthusiastic about learning a subject is to give great lectures, and the only way to give great lectures is to be passionate about the subject matter. This also helps in communicating effectively.

Another important trait that all great professors share is the ability to communicate effectively with their students and colleagues. This is especially true for professors in science, technology, engineering, and math. I have gained a better understanding and appreciation for complicated topics, from professors who are able to relate those topics in a way that is common to the students. For example, when I took a course called Electrical Circuits, instead of the professor explaining the differences between parallel and series circuits in an abstract way, he explained the overall concept with Christmas lights, and more students understood the topic and were able to gain insights from his lecture.

The last and most significant traits of being a great professor is conducting research, and working with students. New questions are always posed and need to be solved. Conducting research and attempting to solve problems in a specific area can often improve lectures. For example, when I took a statistics course, my professor used real data from his research in his lectures, which kept many students interested. If students are not fond of statistics their concentration level is usually low. For instance, during mid-lecture when this professor talked purely about mathematics for a long time some students began to daydream. However, after hearing something non-math related such as, “Pharell Williams song-length data” or “Twitter data from Ashton Kutcher” students in our class refocused and listened to what the professor was saying. Ultimately the students in his class were able learn more from the course because he incorporated fun aspects from his research into his lectures. Research is also beneficial to apply for grants and hire students to tackle the big questions alongside you. This commonly creates funded student opportunities to advance their understanding of a subject matter and can potentially encourage students to pursue future work in that area.

Being a great professor requires you to reach out to countless students and inspire them to study, teach, and/or do something great in the subject matter of their interest. Great teaching is a cooperative enterprise spanning generations. It’s a passing of a torch from professor to student, a community of minds that can do something great.

 

_________

Kelechi Ikegwu
North Carolina A&T State University • Greensboro, NC, USA
BS in Electronics Technology | Minor in Applied Mathematics

Kelechi has always been fascinated by space exploration and computers. After watching a PBS series called “The Cosmos” by Carl Sagan at the age of 14, Kelechi knew that he wanted to make advancements to our understanding of the universe. Inspired by Astronomers, Physicists, and Inventors Kelechi began pursuing his goals to make computational advancements that can aid NASA in its future endeavors.

During his sophomore year at North Carolina A&T State University he received the prestigious NASA MUREP Scholarship and will intern at NASA Ames Research Center this summer. He is currently pursuing a BS in Electronics Technology with a minor in Applied Mathematics. During Kelechi’s academic career he has been a teacher’s assistant for multiple professors. He is a part of the university’s honors program and is on the Dean’s List. He is a Student Researcher for a program called LSAMP which is funded by the National Science Foundation. He was also a recipient for the prestigious Outstanding Student Award at his university’s Honors Convocation.

 

Learn more about the Student Advisory Board.