I am currently taking a graduate course which is a combination of two subjects and we have two faculty teaching it - call them A and B - one for each subject. Before my classes started, we had an orientation and the syllabi of all the classes were shown to us. In this case, Prof A explained to us the syllabus of both the subjects.

But later, when Prof B started teaching, they have deviated a lot from the syllabus. In particular, the topics that were shown to us in the orientation as the syllabus, were pretty much covered in the first couple of lecture and Prof B taught it to us as "background knowledge" (which we thought was going to be the content of the entire course.) Anecdotally, a lot of students are finding the course difficult due to this reason.

Prof B also hasn't provided us with a syllabus of what he is going to teach and we find out the topics on the day of the lecture.

So my question here is: Would it be appropriate to approach Prof B and let them know that this is not what we were expecting from the course? If so, how do I bring it up without coming off as confrontational? Should I instead talk to Prof A and let them know that the syllabus he presented is different from what is being taught?

[Prof B does us ask us during class if we're understanding the topics, but due to the online nature and it being a fairly large class, people haven't really spoken up.]

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    Is this a required graduate course, covering material that will be on the qualifiers? Or is it a 'topics in...' course covering recent advances? Either way, to a varying extent, it is high time to understand that graduate school is not undergraduate part 2.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 4, 2020 at 15:09
  • @JonCuster No, this is not a topics course, but rather an introductory course which serves as a prerequisite for more advanced courses in the further semesters. I understand that the gaps in knowledge are meant to be filled by the students in graduate school, but I feel the gap is a bit too much and hence the dilemma, if I should convey this to the professor and if so, how.
    – Gokul
    Dec 4, 2020 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


Yes, you can speak with both of them, but in the spirit of enquiry, not condemnation. There may be good reasons for it and you have a right to know such things. You especially need to know how much the testing/evaluation framework will follow the original syllabus. And a bit more lead time than "the day of the lecture" is useful for the best students who might be inclined to study ahead of lecture.

Some adjustments may be necessary in the course and your enquiry might lead to them, but it might also lead to a deeper understanding on your part of what is more important in this subject.

There might be a lot of reasons for a deviation, including an inexperienced instructor - or a very experienced one.

And you are in a better position to make guesses about personalities and the effect of an enquiry than anyone here. A reasonable person shouldn't take questions about the syllabus and the expected learning as confrontation.

And, of course, there is also the question of how much scaffolding the professors provide for your learning.

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