8

I'm currently taking a 20-25 person graduate-level course in Computer Science. It's about 60/40 theory/implementation, which means the discussions in class tend to be a bit more abstract that the typical undergraduate course.

I've recently talked with a few of the other students in the class, and we've all noted that it's become particularly difficult to ask questions in class for three reasons:

  1. The professor moves very quickly and jumps back and forth between slides. (We're less concerned about this - it's a pain to follow, but that's grad school, and we're all willing to learn outside of class if necessary.)
  2. There's a core group of about 5 students who sit at the front of the classroom and are constantly asking questions. Normally, none of us would mind this - however, they tend to interrupt the professor and talk loudly over other students (especially international ones).
  3. When someone other than these 5 students does ask a question, those same 5 students usually interrupt the professor and try to answer it themselves - frequently in a way that we feel is more confusing than if the professor himself was to try and answer it.

We have nothing against this professor or these students - they're interested in the field, which we understand - but with midterms approaching we're concerned that our understanding of the material is less than we would like.

I'd like to email the professor and bring up these concerns - I had planned on doing so anyway, but then the other students asked me to do so too because (1) I'm not international and (2) I'm (for lack of a better word) loud when needed.

What I'm not sure is how I should email him. Should it be an anonymous email from one of my dummy accounts? Should it be a group email in which I cc the other students? Should I mention names or not? I'd appreciate some guidance on how to do this such that it will be best received.

  • 4
    Such behavior is rude, inconsiderate, and disruptive. On top of whatever official communication you will pursue, if someone talks over you, it is certainly appropriate to talk back "Could I please finish?"; and if they talk over the professor, "Could I please hear what Professor X has to say?" Don't let bullies get away with this. – gnometorule Oct 15 '15 at 18:50
  • @gnometorule - That's easy for me (as an American) to do... we're known for being blunt like that :) But for certain international students, I get the sense that it's not something they're used to. Nevertheless, I'll be sure to share that advice with them! – tonysdg Oct 15 '15 at 18:51
  • 2
    If you ask mostly for others, kudos to you. But then simply substitute the above with "Could you please let him (her) finish?", and "Could we please hear what Professor X has to say" - all with a genuine smile. The professor might even appreciate if they are shy (I've seen people stand up for their shy professor when he was bullied by aggressors). As you say you are a group of friends, you can take turns intervening to make clear that it isn't just you. – gnometorule Oct 15 '15 at 18:55
6

I think e-mailing him essentially what you wrote here is fine. You are respectful and understanding of everyone involved, and have legitimate concerns. I think an e-mail would be very likely to get a favorable response.

I think it is fine to e-mail from your institutional account, but if you prefer anonymity I think it is also fine to sign up for a Gmail or Yahoo account or something and e-mail from that.

Probably best not to mention names.

  • 7
    Ended up doing this anonymously, and received a nice reply saying "Thanks for the feedback, I'd noticed this issue too, I'll make adjustments if necessary." Class today seemed markedly improved (from our perspective at least), and there were questions from more than just my compatriots and I, which I think means we weren't the only ones having this feeling. – tonysdg Oct 15 '15 at 22:46
  • 1
    @tonysdg - Thank you so much for the update. Very glad to hear. – aparente001 Oct 17 '15 at 4:02
  • Great to see some good outcomes here! :) Kudos to you. – neuronet Jan 1 '16 at 17:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.