What Makes a Good University Instructor?

KPU instructors are at their best when they adjust to the university’s unique environment

New KPU Journalism instructor Tracy Sherlock listens to one of her students regarding ideas for a final project. (Kyrsten Downton)

Picking a university instructor is almost as important as picking the classes you take. A good one can change your academic career for the better, while a bad one can have you dreading your weekly class.

During my four years at KPU, I’ve had my share of great and not-so-great instructors. Below are four of the most crucial traits that I’ve learned a good KPU instructor should have.

Adjustment to the Smaller Classroom Environment

This is one of the biggest problems that new KPU instructors tend to have. The smaller class sizes create a completely different teaching and learning environment in comparison to bigger universities like UBC.

Students expect a more personal relationship with their instructors and their peers at this school. If an instructor assumes that long and impersonal lectures are the best way to teach in a KPU classroom, the opportunity to excel will be lost for most students. The best instructors will mix lectures with group workshops and possibly out-of-classroom trips or events to keep everyone engaged.

Tough Love, Not No Love

A great instructor should not have to coddle their students throughout the semester. We are not in elementary school anymore, and we need to be able to learn responsibility because it will help us in our future endeavours. Many great instructors will be flexible with you if you need it. Giving tough love is not synonymous with being unsupportive.

An instructor needs to be available and willing to help students when they have questions. Nothing is worse than an instructor who doesn’t respond to emails or who isn’t available during their office hours. We should not have to fend for ourselves while getting an education.

Fostering a Safe and Welcoming Environment

It still shocks me when an instructor does not create a safe environment for students because KPU is a diverse learning environment.

Everyone should feel safe to express their own ideas, and a great instructor will be the first to encourage that. After all, learning from one another is a critical part of post-secondary education. If an instructor does not create a safe learning environment, they should not be teaching at all.


Most importantly, a great instructor has to be passionate about the subject that they are teaching. When I meet a teacher who loves their job, it inspires me to learn.

Unfortunately, I have had a few instructors who were dispassionate about their jobs. When an instructor creates that type of atmosphere for students it lowers their work drive. Students should not be discouraged from following their education and enthusiasm simply because an instructor does not share that same sentiment. A great instructor will raise a student’s level of passion.


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