College Professors

Is there a difference between STEM and Liberal Arts professors? Do these differences deter some individuals from the field?

As someone who has changed from a STEM major to a liberal arts major, I can say there is a huge difference between the two. Not only are the programs vastly different in subject matter, the teaching approach is also very distinct in each. To preface, I don’t think that STEM is a horrible field and I think that it’s a perfect fit for some. With that being said, there is a lot that I’ve noticed that might deter one from the field. 

For starters, grading seems to be rather harsh. I’ve noticed that in most STEM classes I’ve taken, many professors will allow for two missed classes. Sometimes they go as far as to punish students for being late. While I do think that students have a responsibility to themselves to make sure that they are making the most of their tuition dollars, that looks different for everybody. This grading style is one of the first things that I had to adjust to when I had first thought about going into STEM. Not to mention the term “weed out class,” which basically means it’s a class designed for people to fail or struggle through, is commonly used in the STEM field. That then begs the question, why are we trying to make it so hard for people to get an education in something they are passionate about? 

Attendance is something that I have personally struggled with due to a number of reasons. However, I don’t think that makes me a bad student. Nor do I think that it’s fair to punish students for needing to take care of themselves, whatever the reason may be. From doctors appointments to mental health days, there are a lot of reasons a student might need to miss class. After all, we are all human beings with a separate life from school. 

Photo by Alexa Christie | Another study space.

I’ve also found that very few STEM professors allow late work. Of course there are some standards that should be upheld between a student and professor, but there should still be understanding when life gets in the way. Just because an assignment is a day, or even a week late, doesn’t mean the student didn’t put their best effort into it. 

 Sometimes students learn at different paces and need more time to understand the concept. Sometimes students have a lot going on in their personal life and school gets pushed to the back burner for a short time. Whether it’s mental health or physical health, everyone deserves a bit of understanding. Students shouldn’t have to choose between their grades and taking care of themselves.

Another thing I’ve noticed is the overwhelming amount of busy work professors often assign. That’s not to say that all assignments are busy work, of course some are helpful to learning the concepts being taught in class. Students spend hours, even days, on one assignment that is supposed to be helping them, but in reality it creates more stress. With more stress there is a greater chance of students cheating, plagiarizing, or even giving up completely. 

In short, it seems that STEM professors may have a bit of a lack of empathy when it comes to students putting their needs before school. As for liberal arts professors, the approach to teaching is much more desirable. 

I’ve been a liberal arts major for almost a year now and I can say that transitioning from a STEM major was almost like a culture shock. Everything from grading, to assignments, to the structure of class was different. 

I’ve found that liberal arts professors are very lenient about late work and needing to miss a class to take care of yourself. More often than not, they don’t have any policy that affects a student’s grade for missing a class or turning in an assignment late. They will usually have a separate assignment that will help make sure the student didn’t miss anything important, but very rarely do either affect the students grade. 

Another thing about liberal arts professors is the amount of time they put into assignments. I can honestly say that over the last year every assignment I’ve been given has been for a reason and furthered my knowledge on a vast variety of social issues. I feel like each assignment has had a purpose and moves me towards understanding what is being discussed in class. 

In short, STEM is a field that has become inaccessible to many for a number of reasons. From the lack of understanding to the overwhelming amount of homework and busy work provided, many aren’t able to learn efficiently in that class structure. This does not mean that STEM is a “bad” field, it just means there is a lot of growth that needs to happen within the field.