Teacher quality: Adult education vs. undergrad

I recently started taking a non-credit basic photography course at the local community college. The teacher is excellent. In fact, he’s better than almost all of my undergrad engineering teachers. Which is kind of disturbing, since it’s not like I had to take out student loans to pay for this class.

Anyone else notice this kind of thing, or did I get lucky? (Or did my undergrad just suck?)

I guess I’m the only one taking classes at the community college?

Hah ! maybe you’re the only one to admit it.

When I went to university, I remember some kids who had gone to Community College for their “core” classes before coming to U. I discovered that they were better prepared in physics and chemistry than I was (who had taken them at U). It’s no secret here that community colleges give you your best bang for the buck.

Last year I had the pleasure of teaching a night class at Community College. The atmosphere is more laid back than at U, and the classes are much smaller. I had 6 students ! I’m thinking that this keeps the instructors happy and more “into” their work.

Or, maybe your undergrad did suck. You shoulda gone to engineering school with me! :stuck_out_tongue:

There’s a couple of things to consider:

  1. Class Size - My large lecture type classes at a big University are really horrible (both in Engineering/Sciences and in Liberal Arts). These were much better (both areas) in smaller classes.

  2. Instructor’s level. Is your photog instructor a professor, expected to publish articles or do research or any of a number of other things besides teach. At Penn State (okay, I’ll name names) most of my instructors in engineering and science courses were teaching only because they had to, and it showed.

  3. Your interest level. I assume you’re taking these photog classes because you REALLY want to. I’ve found that’s made a huge difference in my educational experience.

I took and had to drop Physics 3 times at the University of Houston before I took it at Houston Community College and passed it easily. The reason I passed was not the easier curriculum, but the better teacher. I actually learned something from her. The first instructor at the university hardly spoke any english. The second instructor was a really strict totalitarian. The 3rd instructor was an asian who also spoke very poor english. The community college instructor was a very nice black woman who spoke perfect english and communicated the lessons well. In my experience, there is no correlation between teacher quality and what school they are teaching at. I had 5 fantasticly amazing teachers and not a single bad one at community college. But I had a whole slew of poor ones at the University. Of course my favorite teacher of all time (David Thaddeus I’m talking about YOU.) was at the University. He made what should have been the hardest class of my major very very easy.

In my experience, an adult education class (whether it be non-credit, or for a degree program) often has a different tone than an undergraduate class, in large part because the students:

  1. Want to be there. Now, many traditional undergraduates also want to be in school, but I think in an adult class, you have a greater percentage of people who are very invested in being in that class. Traditional students are students, adult students are consumers. They want to get their money’s worth. And in most cases, a greater number of the adult students actually write the tuition check themselves so they feel the dollar value in a way that perhaps not every traditional age student does.

  2. Often have more life experience that makes for a productive classroom environment. I swear, sometimes I think everyone should have to work for a year or two before going to college, because work teaches you organizational skills that really come in handy.

I also think most schools are fairly attuned to whether individual instructors work best with adults or with traditional undergrads. Some people might be equally good (or bad), while others might have a real strength teaching one or the other. It sounds like your instructor is a good one, and it’s very likely that he’s deliberately working in an adult education program.

I’ve been to a University, a state college, and a community college. My own experience has been similar to the OP’s, the quality of education at the state and CC was far better than at the U. (Well the physics guy at Rutgers was pretty good, but the other departments…bleh.)

I think the big difference is teachers who want to teach ( and speak english), and there are no TAs mumbling with an atrocious french accent though Calculus for engineers. shudders at the memory

The state college I went to had no graduate or research program, and thusly no TAs or professors who’s primary reason for being there had little to do with teaching.

Also, at the CC I’m going to now, there are people who are as experienced as the teacher in class, who are just there for fun, it’s like having 4 or 5 teachers. Plus the whole attitude of the place is more relaxed and more condusive to actually learning. Another plus is that no one lives on campus and therefore the the percentage of the students that actually bathe is much higher. I think that helps a little too.

If the person gives the class just because it is required (and doesn’t like it), and he/she really prefers to do simple research, then most of the time he/she will be a lousy professor.

I’ve had lecturers at college that only gave the class because it was required or left them more money. They preferred research to teaching, and it showed. Students sensed it.

Similar, I’ve had teachers that either just teach, or do both research and teaching, but love the subject they teach. Last semester I had two great teachers. One was an organic chemistry teacher and graduate chemistry advisor. He no longer did research, just gave classes. He had a lot of time available to help his students, he encouraged going to the office hours, and he just made you like the subject. The other was my animal growth and development teacher. While he did research, he also encouraged going to his office hours, asking questions in class, e-mailing him, etc.

Some TAs, even though they do the work for the money, actually want their charges to do good and learn, and will give extra time and office hours to help them.

At least in Gainesville (home of UF and SFCC), some of the teachers at Santa Fe are PhD. students (already with MSs or MAs) at UF. Many that give classes there are/were taught by the same lecturers that give the same class over at UF.