Q & A with Avery Kolers, U of L professor of philosophy

By on May 2, 2012

By James El-Mallakh–

Often times the learning experience in college is different than it is in high school and knowing how to interact with the class can be crucial to how well a student does. To better understand how students can succeed in class, The Cardinal spoke to Avery Kolers to get some perspective on what he thinks are the best ways for students to do well.

Dr. Avery Kolers, a professor of philosophy at U of L, has been teaching graduate and undergraduate classes for 12 years at the University of Louisville. The following are excerpts from his conversation with the Cardinal.

Q: What should students expect to be consistent among all the professors of the classes that they take?
A: “I think every teacher will expect they have read the syllabus and that they know what their responsibilities are, that they meet their responsibilities and that it’s clear that they are trying to succeed. So people who waltz in and say, ‘I didn’t notice that something was due, I haven’t started it, can I have an extension,’ they will get a fair hearing, but it won’t be a good hearing.”

Q: Every professor is different, so in what ways can students adapt to those differences to do best in class?
A: “Having a sense of what the particular professor expects is important and so spending the time it takes to look at the syllabus and figure out what your responsibilities are is going to be important… Remember that some faculty are part time and have very little time and are running back and forth between campuses sometimes and their availability is going to be different.”

Q: If a student is struggling in a class, what should he or she do?
A: “The first thing is talk to their peers and talk to the professor. It would be really good to know classmates who are in the same class and who are doing the same work, and then talk to them about what you’ve missed on a given day or talk about the reading outside of class… Most of the learning for a class is outside the class… if you’re falling behind or if you’re not succeeding in the class… talking to your friends and finding out how they’re experiencing the class will be really helpful.”

Q: If a student is not particularly interested in a class, what are some of the ways they can better engage the course material?
A: “In some cases there’s a learning disability issue and… if they need help with that, they need help with that. In other cases, it’s exposure to something they’ve never been exposed to before, and sometimes there are defenses people put up, I know speaking about philosophy, people sometimes put up defenses about trying to figure out what’s really right when you though you’d known all along what was right… In other cases, you’ve always believed yourself to be bad at something like math and so your performance fulfills your expectations… Being open to new material and not doubting that you can master it are really important.”

“One thing I think students should always try to do is… figure out not just what the content is that they’re suppose to learn… but figure out what makes the content the content, what makes it true… if you understand the point of thinking, then the thinking is much easier.”

Q: Other Advise?
A: “One thing about choosing a major: the job market these days really isn’t very friendly in general so it’s really important to choose classes that are going to get you a general, deep education not just direct you towards a particular job because it may or may not exist four years from now.”

“So the idea that you should choose a course that will get you to a particular job that is waiting for you, there aren’t particular jobs waiting for you. So it’s a time of great upheaval but great opportunity too, but it really matters to have a deep, critical education.”

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Photo: James El-Mallakh/The Louisville Cardinal

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