Picture this: you’re sitting in the Ed Burke, and you look around at the various laptop screens in the lecture hall. Some are being used to scroll through Facebook, others used to do some online shopping, and a very small number being used to actually take notes. You look down at your watch, and realise what felt like forty five minutes has actually only been seven. You start to wonder if you’ll ever make it out of this class alive. It’s not difficult to imagine because it’s not uncommon to be sitting in a mind numbingly dull lecture, filled with students who don’t want to be there, and a lecturer who’d rather be anywhere else to match.
It’s a pity because lectures don’t necessarily have to be that way. When a lecturer is passionate about a subject, it makes the class much more interesting, easier to pay attention to, and gives much more of an incentive to actually turn up. I found this to be the case last year with one of my modules. Half way through the year, the lecturer for the class changed, and the difference in both the attendance and participation of all the students in the course was clear. In the first semester, I was genuinely interested in what we were learning, and found myself looking forward to the class. However, after we got back from the winter break I was paying less attention to class, being less stimulated by the subject matter, and in general just attending less lectures. A lecturer’s interest in a subject and a student’s interest go hand in hand, and it was clear that the change in lecturer and their accompanying attitude had made an enormous impact.
“…I never found myself feeling like an idiot for not understanding something in her class, which can very often be the case with other lecturers.”
While I really enjoy most of my modules, everyone can agree that some classes are just more enjoyable than others. In my time in Trinity, I’ve had some amazing lecturers. Introduction to Finance and Economy of Ireland are standout modules that I’ve definitely only enjoyed because of the lecturer. Finance can be hard work at times, and going into the module I was worried. However, even when the subject matter wasn’t the most interesting, I still found myself clinging to every word that came out of the lecturer’s mouth. She somehow made things like calculating the weighted average cost of capital of a business seem interesting, and I found myself slowly falling in love with finance. This lecturer focused on making sure that everything was as clear as possible, and I never found myself feeling like an idiot for not understanding something in her class, which is often the case. She wanted to make sure we actually understood the course work, as opposed to just reading out a few equations and leaving us to figure out what to do with them ourselves. Finance was one of my favourite modules last year and now, while I research internships in finance for next summer, I find myself wondering if I’d even be interested in the world of finance at all if it weren’t for that engaging lecturer.
There’s something about his style of teaching that made the class feel like…he actually wanted us to be there.
I chose Economy of Ireland as my elective last year because I heard I could easily get a 2.1 (which was true) but that it would be extremely boring (which was false). When you hear the words “the Irish economy before the Industrial Revolution”, your first thought isn’t that a bunch of 19 year olds are going to love listening to this for an hour. But our lecturer had such a passion for teaching that you couldn’t help but want to listen to what he had to say. His lectures didn’t feel like you were listening to someone read off slides, or a chapter of a book. They felt more like a discussion, like he was telling a story that you really wanted to hear. There’s something about his style of teaching that made the class feel like we were involved in the class, and that he actually wanted us to be there.
What both of these lecturers have, that a lot of lecturers do not, is a passion for both teaching and the subject matter of their courses. They were both interested in the course content, and they genuinely wanted us to learn and benefit from it. A passionate lecturer makes all the difference for students, because not only do they make the class more interesting, they can also make it clearer and easier to understand.
“All too often it can feel like having to teach a class is just a weekly hour long hindrance to a lecturer.”
Students also seem to be a priority for both of these lecturers, which unfortunately can be rare. Something as simple as a lecturer replying to your email within 24 hours, or posting articles on Blackboard just because they think their students might be interested in them, can really make a difference. All too often it can feel like having to teach a class is just a weekly hour-long hindrance to a lecturer, and that it’s just getting in the way of their research papers. This attitude can ruin a class, and discourage attendance, by creating a feeling of “well if the lecturer doesn’t care about this class, then why should I?” There is nothing like a lecturer reading each bullet point on a PowerPoint slide verbatim to make you never want to attend their class again.
There are so many benefits to a lecturer who is engaging and passionate. When a lecturer truly cares about what they’re teaching, it’s hard for that passion to not be somewhat contagious. When a lecturer makes the class more interesting, students will naturally pay more attention, and therefore learn more. There’s no exact formula for being a good lecturer. Each lecturer bringing their own style to the lecture theatre can create a more interesting learning environment. This in turn means that each individual lecturer can feel comfortable in their way of teaching, and they can focus on creating an engaging atmosphere for their students.