Student Perspectives on the University Professor Role

Article excerpt

The teacher-student relationship is one of the key predictors of academic performance (Yoon, 2002). Recognizing its relevance, in different studies the main features of this relationship have been investigated. Two major approaches have been used in identifying such factors: separate analysis of professor and student roles, and analysis of the interaction between them.

On the one hand, there has been a tendency to analyze each of these roles separately. Some authors have preferred to analyze the role of the student, and others have preferred to examine the role of the teacher.

The focus of those studies in which the student's role has been analyzed has been particularly on the analysis of intelligence quotient (IQ) and personality traits. However, as stated by Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham (2008), analysis of the IQ has a limited ability to account for academic performance. Regarding personality traits, researchers have found a relationship between certain personality traits of students and academic performance (Lathey, 1991; Marin Sanchez, Infante Rejano, & Troyano Rodriguez, 2001).

Similarly, those who have focused on the teacher role have attempted to identify personality traits that might be of relevance in teaching (Ceylan, Bigakgi, Giirsoy, & Aral, 2009; Dellana & McLeod, 1997; Di Fabio & Palazzeschi, 2008; Fisher & Kent, 1998; Tok & Morali, 2009).

Another way to address the teacher-student relationship is to consider its interactive nature. In this sense, the role played by teachers would be influenced by both internal (e.g., beliefs, knowledge, personality) and external (e.g., role expectations) aspects. Studies of the teacher-student relationship could be oriented to analyze the factors that help teachers develop their roles (Tom, 1997). One aspect that can help teachers develop their role is the information and feedback they receive from their students (Roche & Marsh, 2000).

The teacher-student relationship is direct in that students transmit key role expectations for their teachers. What students expect of teachers and how they perceive them consequently defines and affects their teachers' behavior and, thus, the success of their teaching. Student perceptions of the teacher-student relationship are considered crucial by researchers and have long attracted their interest (Feldman, 1976). The importance of this topic has also been reflected in a recent volume of the International Journal of Educational Research (Vol. 43, 2005); however, most of the current research has been carried out using secondary level education samples (Wubbels, 2005). Few researchers have focused on the role of the university professor. In this study we focus specifically on the teacher-student relationship in the university setting. Our main goal was to analyze the perception of the role of the university teacher/lecturer from the perspective of social science university students.



Participants in this study were 1,599 university students majoring in various social science programs (educational science, business and economics, social and legal studies, political and sociological studies, labor relations, media and communication studies) who were randomly selected from among social science students in Andalusian universities (Spain). Approximately 29% were male and regarding grade level, 43.1% were first-year students, 30% second-year students, and 26.9% third-year.


Data were gathered by an open question, similar to the one used by Nikitina and Furuoka (2009), and completed during a class session. Students were asked to "Write the most important characteristics that your ideal professor should have to perform the task of teaching at your college". Six experts grouped these characteristics into different dimensions. We then applied the Osterlind Index, by which the level of consensus of a group of experts on the fit-congruence of different indicators to a dimension proposed is assessed (Chacon, Perez-Gil, Holgado Tello, & Lara, 2001; Osterlind, 1989). …