For a teacher, there are two great challenges to be dealt with before the process of teaching really end up in learning. The first is to ensure that the students are actually following what the teacher has to say, and the second is to ensure that they are absorbing the content in a way that they will enable them to make use of that knowledge some day. For good teachers, professors and trainers, being able to deal with these two challenges is the most important part in fulfilling their teaching assignments. That is the reason why great college professors, instead of taking offense, like to see their students challenging their statements.
Professors, like most other human beings, have their own egos, and being questioned is an attack on that ego that they would also like to avoid. In fact, given the nature of their vocation, the level of their knowledge and experience on the subject, and the fact that there is always a certain degree of ego-friction going on between the trainers and the trained, one would usually expect them to dislike being questioned by their students. It may also seem like an attack on their authority as well as putting a question mark over their knowledge and integrity. Being challenged by one’s students can rattle the teachers and instances when being questioned leads to negative or even retaliatory responses are not unheard of. Yet, it is the approach in this regard that is often the differentiating feature between an ordinary professor and a great one, and the reasons are not difficult to understand.
When a student challenges a professor in a college, it indicates that the student is actually following what the professor has been discussing. Not only that, it also means that the student has been able to absorb those issues thoroughly and in a way that she can now use that knowledge to develop her own arguments. Moreover, the fact that the student is able to put an argument across is also an indicator of a high level of confidence on the part of the student. Such confidence, if well placed, as would be true if the argument being made is relevant to the discussion, is always a positive signal. Thus, most great professors like being challenged because it is an indication of a certain degree of their success in transmitting the knowledge and making their students mentally active on that topic.
Great professors make use of every possibility that comes their way to teach. A student challenging them is invariably such an opportunity. Whenever that happens, it invokes a lot of interest in the classroom. How the professor responds to the objections is something that most students find more interesting than the usual subject. It is like adding spice to a dish, and for a great professor, it is also welcome for that very reason. Such discussions are a great tool for learning. In fact, it is not only the students who learn in such discussions. It is a learning experience even for the professors, as it gives them an idea about what their students are grasping and what they are not, where the misconceptions may be and what could possibly be the areas in which the professor can improve his own skills and approach.
Great professors are great not just because they make their students learn a lot. They are also great because they continue to learn themselves.