I am well aware of the decorum and tact expected of professors, teachers and TA's. But in the rare instances where an instructor swore to emphasize a point, the class and I remembered the outburst clearly and with vivid detail.

Without going into detail the gist of the situation was that a group failed to prepare for a big presentation that was scheduled well in advance and decided to 'wing' the presentation with a last-minute powerpoint slide of uncited material.

The professor, having lost his cool, chewed out the group in front of the class with a string of f-bombs stipulating how stupid and idiotic it was that the group not only failed to plan but planned to fail. The professor subsequently failed the group for the project. This was a point of discussion and remembrance whenever the class was talked about after the semester was over.

Nevertheless, the learning moment was accomplished and no one after the incident ever failed to produce viable work afterwards.

With this said, what are the ethical, moral, legal, and interpersonal considerations here that I am unaware of?

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    There are far more professional ways of expressing disappointment than repeatedly swearing at someone. – astronat Dec 23 '17 at 15:18
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    This is ridiculously culturally and personally specific. Let's say there are things I would do in class in Massachusettes but not Minnesota, and vice versa, and things I can do but a white, Midwestern-born-and-raised, woman can't, and vice versa. – Alexander Woo Dec 23 '17 at 15:53
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    @FrankFYC The acceptability of swearing is certainly culture-dependent. – JiK Dec 23 '17 at 21:54
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    @AlexanderWoo I disagree, because your class is likely to contain people from several cultures. The correct way to teach is in a way that will not alienate students from any cultural background. – Anonymous Physicist Dec 24 '17 at 0:15
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    I'd say the lesson I would learn was rather "don't show up in this professor's class with poor work". Meaning, if I had to produce poor work in some course (because of time etc.) I would do so in another course, but not in this (because of fear of humilitation). This may or may not have been his goal. – Haudie Dec 24 '17 at 22:00

It's one thing to criticize the group for poor work - I've witnessed this and it is fully called for to say that the group has come unprepared and has underperformed. It's a very different thing for a professor of all people to lose their cool and use expletives in front of students. I am in Europe and this is poor personal control, poor personal culture, and by all means unacceptable behavior within a classroom. No matter how bad a group - they will deservedly get a bad grade in the end - but you can simply never - and it is never acceptable to lose your cool like that and pretty much insult students in front of their peers. In school we get grades, not expletives. This is never acceptable. Never.

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No, it is not. Faculty are responsible for modelling professional conduct.

The appropriate response to students who perform poorly is to tell the students what they need to do in order to improve. In other words, assessments should be formative. Under the locus of control theory, calling students names, such as "stupid," will make them less motivated.

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    I am familiar with the theory, but I ask if it would be viable to confer the same level of professionalism to every single student who perform poorly, isn't there a point where it is no longer feasible due to scale? – Frank FYC Dec 24 '17 at 0:25
  • @FrankFYC We have a culture now where it's very hard to tell a student that they are not trying hard enough, even when it would be massively in their interests to listen to you. – Jessica B Dec 24 '17 at 9:25
  • @JessicaB Hence my question on the viability of being blunt (harsh language). – Frank FYC Dec 24 '17 at 9:59
  • @FrankFYC If I can't give constructive feedback to all my students, there is something wrong with my course design. The correct, professional response is never to curse or berate students who preform poorly. – Johanna Dec 24 '17 at 11:07

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