Let’s face it. We’ve all had a professor who’s made a class excruciating, whether it be because of their monotonous delivery, heaps of homework, or the fact that they don’t seem to understand that we don’t understand what they’re trying to teach.
We’ve all also experienced that amazing professor — the one who has you actually looking forward to class, the one whose words seem like gospel, and the one who teaches their class so well that it makes you want to change your major.
So which of the professors here at the University of Toronto fit the bill of the latter category? In order to determine some of the top-rated professors at U of T and what gained them this status, I first looked at course evaluation data. Then I looked at their Rate My Professors reviews.
The results are in, and the students have spoken: below, you’ll find some of the top-rated professors across different departments, faculties, and campuses at U of T.
Alex Hernandez, Faculty of Arts & Science, English
For “generation of enthusiasm in students,” Hernandez scored a perfect 5.0, and his average score for “creation of an atmosphere conducive to learning” was 4.9.
Students enjoy the passion he exhibits for his subject, the organization of his slides, and the fact that he facilitates questions and provides clear and insightful feedback. One thing that stands out about Hernandez is how accessible he makes course content.
Students claim that he makes himself available to them outside of lectures and, in particular, he has initiated a group note-taking effort in his classes that eases burdens for students with accessibility requirements.
Samer Henry, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, undergraduate
Students seem most impressed by Henry’s kind and genuine manner of treating them. He makes an effort to check on his pupils’ mental well-being and the effort he exerts to ensure that his students grasp programming skills does not go unnoticed.
His lecture notes are extensive, and he is excellent at ensuring that his students understand — and, most importantly, enjoy — course content. It must be noted that Henry received the University’s Course Instructor Teaching Excellence Award in 2019. His overall rating as a teacher was five out of five on course evaluations.
Jennifer Stellar, UTM, psychology
Stellar must be commended for the clarity with which she imparts course concepts, provides instructions, and tests students’ knowledge. Her pupils find her passion for her subject inspiring, and many claim it has led them to take more courses within the field of social psychology.
In response to the question of whether she created a course environment that was maximally conducive to learning, students saw it fit to consistently rate her between a 4.4 and a 5.0. This is no surprise, as she provides proper feedback on students’ work and carefully structures her course for the maximum absorption of information, keeping lectures concise, yet interesting.
She also incorporates multiple teaching methods, from the traditional slides and oral lecture format, to participatory learning, such as conducting a savouring exercise with chocolate.
Jeffrey May, UTM, historical studies
May’s course evaluations showed that students gave him a full five out of five for the creation of a constructive learning environment. He heavily incorporates group work into the class, encouraging discussion of materials and ideas, yet he is considerate enough to mark individually so that students do not suffer due to shortcomings of their teammates’ work.
His passion for his subject and teaching is evident during his interactions with his students, who describe him as enthusiastic.
May goes beyond the bounds of his job description, displaying a real concern for students, for example, by helping them to access the course textbook in the most affordable way. Students commend his comprehensibility and fair marking. To keep things interesting, he manages to inject a professional yet entertaining sense of humour into his lectures.
Andre Simpson, UTSC, chemistry and environmental science
Students gave Simpson a 5.0 rating on account of the effort he appears to put into explaining course materials, as well as many other admirable traits. Notably, Simpson overtly expresses that he cares about his students. Students describe his assignments and marking as “tough but fair.” What’s more, they have high praise for the quality of his lecture notes and seem to appreciate his use of practical examples.
So, what makes a good professor?
Looking at this lineup, we can see some trends emerging. What makes a good professor? A teacher who is passionate — about teaching and about their subject — seems most effective at engaging their students. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and students find it difficult to not like the subject as much as their professor does.
Another integral ingredient is clarity. Students learn better when they can understand the concepts their teacher is explaining, as well as when they understand what exactly is expected of them in their assignments and tests.
Being approachable also encourages students to discuss their ideas with the professor and makes them feel comfortable enough to make mistakes and learn from them, to ask questions, and to be brave.
Finally, students want a professor who truly cares about them. Someone who cares, not only about how students do academically, but also about their mental health, about their journey, and about whether they enjoy their learning experience.