Graphic by Jamie Wang
Graphic by Jamie Wang

Should students choose classes on the basis of subject or teacher?

February 25, 2020


Every school year, students undergo the course selection process, navigating through a variety of science, technology, math, humanities and history classes as well as electives displayed on the online courage catalogue. Yet many struggle to determine which classes they should sign up for, especially given the fact that this choice determines much of a student’s upcoming school year experience. The easy A’s, the funny teachers and the promise of a weighted grade point average (GPA) all serve as contributing factors to this choice. Despite alternative strategies, however, students should choose their courses based on their interests because doing so contributes to overall success and personal development.

The content of a course is proven to have an impact on overall student performance. To succeed in a class, students should select their courses based on what appeals to them and caters to their interests. A study conducted by University of Michigan researchers Olaf Köller and Jürgen Baumert found a direct correlation between student interest and performance. Their article, “Does Interest Matter?” concludes that there is a 30% increase in class success when students are interested in the class. The results vary by subject and gender, but the overall consensus supports the relationship between interest and performance. Amid the rigor and stress of the education system, students also face increasing pressure to perform well, as grades directly affect college and future options. Therefore, students should strategize how to best succeed; based on Köller and Baumert’s findings, the answer lies in their interest in a class. Selecting courses that have greater meaning to students likely translates to a higher grade, which eventually contributes to more options for the future.

Classes are designed to challenge students and help develop their interests in high school, college and well into adulthood. Judith M. Harackiewicz and Chris S. Hulleman’s article, “The Importance of Interest: The Role of Achievement Goals and Task Values in Promoting the Development of Interest,” investigates how student interest develops from the classroom to real life. Their findings demonstrate that captivating classes help students cultivate their interest in a particular field, contributing to greater personal development. For example, a student who is interested in calculus may find after taking the class that they feel a greater drive to pursue math further, in a career or degree. Courses foster interest, and therefore, students should select classes that help them grow. Having interest in a subject is the gateway to possibility, and students need to take advantage of such opportunity by choosing classes that interest them.

Some may argue that students should select their classes based on the teacher, rather than their initial interest, and that it is the teacher that makes the class interesting. While teachers certainly contribute to class atmosphere, the content of the course remains for the most part unchanged. The influence of a teacher only stretches so far, and it falls on the student to ultimately perform and learn in a class. Rather than choosing to take a class where the teacher is likeable but the content proves unmanageable, students should follow their interests and sign up for courses that appeal to them. A good teacher is not always guaranteed, but the curriculum of a class is.

With the stress of course selections coming up, combined with parental and self pressure, students should pause and take a moment to reflect, as prioritizing classes that interest them helps promote academic success and personal growth. Catering to one’s interests is the first step to success in school and in life.

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With course selections just around the corner, some students may be struggling to choose their classes. There are many factors to consider when signing up for courses: What subjects do I want to take? How many Advanced Placement (AP) or honors classes am I taking? Is this class going to be too hard? And, of course, will I have friends in this class? However, the most important factor to consider during course selection is the teacher who is teaching the class.

Teachers can make or break a class. One bad teacher can put a damper on what would otherwise be a great se- mester. When a teacher does not explain the subject well, it can often lead to a lot of unnecessary stress, bad grades and confusion. Some teachers can also create stressful classroom environments. It is safe to say that most Gunn students already have enough stress in their lives, and getting a bad teacher can really take a toll.

Many students choose a class purely for its subject or because it is an honors or AP class and fail to consider the teacher. The drawbacks of having a bad teacher certainly outweigh that one honors class on your transcript. More often than not, AP classes are time consuming, have challenging grading systems and lead to very stressful experiences.

Students should take classes with great teachers even if they are not honors level classes, or they are not really interested in the subject. Most students are not yet sure what they want to study in college, and it is important to explore a wide variety of subjects to see what you are interested in. Teachers can turn subjects you thought you hated into great classes.

A great teacher can also make a significant impact on a student’s life. Having a class with a teacher that you feel comfortable talking to and joking around with in a stress-free environment is crucial in high school. A Review of Educational Research analysis of 46 studies showed that strong teacher-student relationships were associated with higher student academic engagement, attendance and grades, as well as fewer disruptive behaviors and suspensions and lower school dropout rates.

So, before you sign up for your classes, make sure to weigh all your options. Teachers are extremely important in the overall experience of classes. So, talk to upperclass- men about potential teachers, or at least look them up on Rate My Professor before signing up for a class.

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