One aspect of a class that is sure to frustrate me if it’s even a little off is its speed. When the pace of classroom instruction is slow, I start wondering why I took the class in the first place. I go to a pretty selective school, so I expect classes to progress at a good clip, because we’re pretty smart students and can keep up. It is the habit of one or two of my professors, however, to teach too slowly for my taste.
To be fair to my professors, the only reason their class goes slowly is because half the time they are waiting for a response to a question posed to the students when none of the students want to raise their hand to answer. In my Parallel Programming class this semester, there are a total of eight students, and I know each of the other seven personally. I know we all understand the material pretty well, but when the professor asks a question, no one wants to be first to answer. I think the reason is that we all know each other pretty well, so no one wants to look like the one that answers all the questions.
This creates a dilemma for me. The class has slowed down to the point that we probably will not cover all the material the professor intended to at the beginning of the semester. I would rather learn more than less, so I have the choice to either raise my hand more often just to speed up the pace with the risk of being “that girl who answers all the questions,” or I can let things stay as they are and not learn about all the parallel goodies I could.
I’d like to think I have learned something since middle school, when I really was “that girl.” It got to the point where my math teacher once told me to stop talking in class for a day. Even now I’m still tempted to answer more than my fair share, so I try to keep responses to one or two per class period just so I don’t annoy everyone else.
When classes slow down because of lack of participation, I think the professor should do more to speed up the class. If no one raises their hand in five seconds, the professor should just call on someone. After all, there are only eight people in my Parallel class; choosing one of eight shouldn’t be that hard (and it’s not – it can be done in constant time with eight processors!). I don’t feel like I can suggest this to the professor though, because I already remarked once that I thought the pace of the class was a little slow, and for the same reason that I don’t want to look like “that girl,” I don’t want to look like I’m telling him how to teach.
Perhaps I’ll try just answering questions as they come and see what happens. I’m not sure what the professor would think of that. If he thought it was unusual, I could always say something like, “I’m just eager to see what you’ll say next.” He would likely take the hint, but again, I don’t want to actively give the impression that I am dissatisfied with his class. I also don’t think my class would mind; they would probably be amused if I did it consistently for a whole class period. But again, it’s not something I would want to do on more than one occasion so I don’t become annoying.
So maybe I’ll try that. But my ideal solution is for the professor to realize what is going on and not take so long to wait for an unresponsive class to show some consciousness.