Get Real: Most Students Hate Classroom Teaching

I find university students’ recent lamentations about missing classroom teaching, caused by the shift to online teaching due to COVID-19, quite interesting. Most students dislike classroom teaching (more on that below), but suddenly they see great value in classroom teaching. Why the shift in students’ perspective? Is their newfound nostalgia belated appreciation for the work that professors do and the learning that they obtain, or does this nostalgia reveal something deeper about their wants and needs?

Six years ago, I conducted studies to learn students’ perceptions of classroom teaching quality and the value of higher education from students’ perspectives. Click on the links below to view the results:

The sad truth is that most students are very unhappy with classroom teaching and the value of higher education. There is a clear need for substantial improvement in both classroom teaching and the value proposition of higher education. Due to mismanagement by recent generations of university leaders (and politicians in the case of state universities) the price of higher education was allowed to greatly exceed its value. That grievous mistake invites deep scrutiny and widespread criticism, and it hands the harshest critics a perfect pretext for making other types of attacks on higher education and the faculty.

When university students say they value classroom teaching, it seems to be code words for saying:


I value getting away from my stifling parents and annoying siblings, I value my independence and making own personal decisions, I value making new friends and socializing with new peer groups, and I value the parties and having fun.

That’s OK. But just be honest and say you are unhappy with classroom teaching as it is usually practiced, and perhaps online teaching as well. Honest and direct student feedback would inform university administrators and professors that both classroom and online teaching needs to be improved, and that they must act on this information instead of ignoring it as they long have. With sustained pressure, students can break the university leaders’ preconception of “academic excellence” and drive needed change.

I have been a passionate practitioner and advocate for applying Lean principles and practices to teaching and for the transformation of university administration from classical management to Lean management. Why? To improve the quality of teaching and effectiveness of student learning so that price and value are better aligned — or, better yet, value exceeds price! Based on my 20 years of practice, it is clear that Lean Teaching delivers a better educational experience for students. Learn more about my work below in these books:

and these papers:

Please visit the “Lean Professor” section of my blog to read my many posts about Lean management and higher education. It contains a lot of great ideas for improvement and numerous penetrating analyses!

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