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I'm a TA. Recently a few students (good students) approached me, because they are having a hard time retaining the information from the main professor's lectures. (They think he is putting too much information on the powerpoints, which makes it impossible to take notes).

Is there a good way to pass along this information, without telling the professor how to teach his own class? I'm in a country where anonymous teacher evaluations do not exist...

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  • Can you say generally, what part of the world are you in? Cultural norms vary widely.
    – cag51
    Feb 13 at 9:50
  • Thanks for your response! I'm in France.
    – Beth
    Feb 18 at 15:52

2 Answers 2

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Without being confrontational or expressing your own opinions, just mention to the professor that some good students are having difficulty keeping up with the pace of the lectures. You can suggest that the professor make the slides available in some way. The best solution is to make them available prior to a lecture and the students then have the opportunity to annotate them in the lecture itself.

If you meet regularly with the students then perhaps the professor would give the slides to you, if not to the students, as the basis of questions from the students.

Some professors prepare their slides from certain specific materials, such as a textbook. In that case, the book likely contains everything that is important. If they have access to the source materials, then the slides themselves become less important.

Another solution, not involving the professor is to suggest that the students record the audio of the class.

On the other hand, it is a skill worth having to be able to abstract/summarize detailed information in a few sentences. The students in question may not have such a skill and, if not other solution is available, suggest that to them.

I used to ask students at the end of a lecture to tell me the most important idea(s) of the lecture and would ask volunteers to suggest one of them. I also encouraged them to take notes on index cards capturing key ideas rather than detail and then to make a single card from their notes summarizing the lecture. I would sometimes open a lecture asking for the key ideas from the previous lecture. They didn't have this skill when the course started but began to develop it.

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  • Concerning recording the class, the professor should be involved in the sense that the students should ask them for permission to record the class. I would definitely not suggest that the students just start recording the class without talking to the instructor first. Some institutions actually have explicit policies against this, and even if the institution doesn't, it can sour student-faculty relations if a faculty member finds out they're being recorded without their knowledge. Apr 25 at 21:01
  • @MichaelSeifert, I agree about asking, but I'll guess that in the age of the smartphone it happens pretty regularly. I think the issue isn't the recording itself, but someone later making it available without permission. Hard to control, of course, but people seem to be recording lots of stuff these days.
    – Buffy
    Apr 25 at 21:37
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Perhaps the feedback would be best coming from the students themselves who are struggling. In my experience, anonymous feedback throughout an undergraduate course can be really helpful to improve it. It is common (in Canada) to offer course experience surveys at the end of a class. However, students can be more likely to put effort into the feedback when it has the potential to benefit them.

In this case, you could mention the benefit of in-course anonymous feedback to the professor that you are working with, and suggest that trying this might be a great way to find out how the students are currently doing. You could even suggest some general questions that could be asked and would allow your students' concerns to be heard.

Alternatively, you could recommend that the students voice their concerns to the professor themselves during office hours or via email if they are comfortable. Being able to talk with professors and get help can be a valuable skill for undergraduate students to develop.

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