For one of my classes (upper-level), the professor seems to be quite unprepared for the class. More specifically,

  1. As they openly disclose, they haven't looked at the course material in many years (prior to the preparation of the course), and are formally teaching that specific class for the first time ever. Although the professor offers nice explanations and new insight in some course topics, it's clear that they lack the necessary knowledge to fully teach the course. Many of the students, including myself, ask questions on covered & related material to gain a deeper understanding, but we're far too often met with "Oh I can't help you with that. Sorry." Then we read the standard literature (textbooks) on the subject, and see that the answers to our questions are standard knowledge (i.e. should be known by an instructor).
  2. The professor has been packed with other obligations/commitments that are intruding in on his obligation to teach the course (or, more generally, be prepared for the course). These include graduate student advising, personal issues (family most probably - their health seems fine), and research-related stuff. As a result, the professor has literally ended class early and even cancelled class altogether on multiple occasions because, as they have openly disclosed, they "didn't have anything else prepared". On top of that, they have severely cut down on the number of exams and homework.

For students who really only care about getting the course over with, having no intention of using and exploring the material covered in the class, this is heaven. But for those who care deeply about the quality of the class, most of which are paying, this is hell.

What could I do to make this situation better? I haven't talked to the professor about this, because (1) I believe the problems are external to the professor, and (2) the professor is a bit hot-tempered. I don't know if I should talk to his authorities, because then I'd feel bad/mean. Obviously I try hard to supplement by studying the material on my own, but that shouldn't be the case for a payed class.

  • Which country is this?
    – henning
    Apr 27, 2019 at 7:30
  • @henning United States of America. Apr 28, 2019 at 22:42

2 Answers 2


One important thing about higher education is that in general nobody else than you takes responsibility for your learning. So if you decide to learn the material from books/other resources this should be fine. However, teachers/lecturers are still responsible to deliver good lectures. So the teachers set the stage to learn, but you can learn in any way you like.

That said, it still makes sense to try to improve the teaching. You write that the problems are external to the professor. This should make it easier to approach him. For example you don't have to say "I would like more explanation and better answers to our questions" but you can ask for additional material where you can find answers to your questions.

However, if you think that the assignment of this professor to this class was in general a bad decision (due to, for example, lack of expertise, lack of time, too many other commitments…) you can bring this up to people in the department who are responsible. However, it is important to focus on facts and describing the situation in neutral, non-judgemental terms.


If you aren't comfortable bringing this up to the instructor, you should definitely bring this up to someone in the department, such as the under/grad coordinator or chair.

Like you said, you paid for this class. Things like this can slip by without the department ever being aware of it but I would hope that they would take this very seriously.

  • 25
    For what it's worth, this has nothing to do with having paid for the class (you would be equally entitled to complain in a country with free higher education.)
    – ff524
    Apr 7, 2016 at 5:46

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