I recommend students "shop" for the best courses possible. By this, I mean, students should be informed and actively look for excellent teachers and rewarding courses. However, shopping in the first week of class is too late: one misses material and is late to get the books. Start shopping well before the start of the semester.
- Ask instructors for a copy of the syllabus; if they are unresponsive you can often ask the department for a copy — and this tells you something about the instructor as well. I presently teach:
- Ask your peers about the class format and lecture style. You can also likely find videos of the professor lecturing online. I provide a link to a talk below, but I rarely lecture, or even talk for more than five minutes at a time in class.
- Comment's Mysteries, 2015, MIT Media Lab
- Make use of your university's teaching evaluation system, they are likely to be more reliable (because of a better sample of reports) than sites like RateMyProfessor.
- On the first day of class, I review an annotated sampling of student evaluations.
- I understand students are concerned with how difficult a class is. I suppose that's why RateMyProfessor evaluations tend to be based on how easy it is to get an A rather than how much was learned. I encourage you to take challenging courses with excellent teachers.
- In my classes, typically 25-35% of students will get an A and A-.
- If you want to take a challenging course, consider your Pass/Fail options. I've had excellent students take a course with me P/F.