Professor scare tactics do more harm than good to students

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Scare tactics used by professors make the learning experience harder for students than helping them.

Teachers should be wary when it comes to throwing out threats that stress the number of hours they must spend to pass their class or how only a certain few will receive exceptional grades. 

A study done by the American Psychology Association shows that these tactics may be worsening student performance and decreasing student drive.

Students who felt threatened by a professor to perform well reported feeling less motivated to stick with the class and were scoring worse on exams on overall grades. 

A similar study found that students who were used to belittlement from educators felt dread when tests were coming up. They could already picture disappointment in their teachers’ eyes and hear the lecture they were going to hear about needing to do more. 

Another prevalent issue with college education is how teacher-student relationships are harder to form, especially readjusting from remote learning and adapting to a college setting as opposed to lower-level education. 

Good student-educator relationships promote learning, and an article by the Harvard Graduate School of Education provides suggestions to help both students and professors form positive relationships.

Educators are suggested to understand the science behind building solid relationships with students, become empathetic listeners, practice genuine vulnerability and find a way to center themselves when teaching becomes frustrating

Further difficulties in understanding positive teacher-student relationships are that educators and students define them differently.

Teachers describe healthy relationships as “close and supportive but not overly dependent” while students define them as having a teacher who listens and takes a personal interest in students’ lives.

This difference is creating a gap in understanding how to approach building these relationships. 

While it is important for a student to not be dependent on a professor for success, it is also important that an educator takes the time to make the student feel understood.

It can be overwhelming to create a positive classroom environment, especially in college where classes may not meet every day. Still, if professorscano identify these at-risk students and encourage rather than degrade them when it comes to work and provide tutoring and coaching services, then everyone wins. 

When wanting students to strive for excellence, it may be easy to throw out threats and cautions, but this simply does not work for most students.

Professors who find themselves using these scare tactics should reevaluate their teaching styles and focus more on positive reinforcement and creating a welcoming and fun learning environment. 

Sarah Elise Shea is a freshman English literature major who can be reached at [email protected]

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