Do accents or lack of teaching experience deter learning?

Justin R. Lessman

Justin R. Lessman

University instructors are as diverse as the students they teach. They come from different eras, different backgrounds, different cultures, even different countries. Oftentimes, these differences help to achieve exactly what the University wants for its students: a well-rounded education from a variety of viewpoints.

Yet, in some instances, the differences can prove challenging for both the instructors and students.

“It can be frustrating at times,” said Bashir Qasmi, professor of Economics.

Qasmi was born in India, raised in Pakistan and spent time in Canada before coming to SDSU in January of 1987. He said normally his students and he do not experience communication difficulties, except occasionally at certain points in the semester.

“After an exam is given, there will sometimes be one or two students who did not do well on the test that will come and then they have a complaint,” he said. “My feeling is that when students cannot do well, then they maybe find an excuse to complain saying they didn’t understand me. It’s a common problem.”

However, Qasmi said he believes that, on occasion, the excuse is actually valid in a different respect.

“I think maybe the students do not understand what I am saying, not because of the language, but because of the content of what I am teaching. They just cannot grasp it,” he said. “But, every professor has students with that problem.”

Brian Smith, a junior Ag Business major from Montrose, has been taught by two teachers from abroad since he came to SDSU. He said one was excellent, while the other presented him with some communication difficulties.

“My freshman year, I had a Chemistry lab instructor from China,” he said. “I know it wasn’t his fault, but a lot of us in the lab really struggled to understand him clearly. In the end, I believe it did dampen my learning.”

Smith’s other instructor was Qasmi.

“Bashir was very good,” he said. “I had absolutely no problem with him at all and enjoyed the class.”

Hans Stein, originally from

Denmark, has been an SDSU professor of Animal Science for more than two years. He said he does not experience much of a problem with teacher-student communication, either.

“I do get a few comments on the student evaluations at the end of the semester,” he said. “I will score slightly lower on the communication category, and some say that I need to spell-check my slides more closely.”

Stein said teaching in a different country has its challenges.

“It is challenging to teach or instruct in your second or third language,” he said. “It’s not something that comes easy; it takes work.”

While some students struggle at times with teachers who have come to SDSU from abroad, others find it frustrating to be taught exclusively by teacher assistants or graduate students.

Dan Magerkurth, a junior ag business major from Geneseo, Ill., said he has found that the lack of experience an assistant or graduate student has compared to a tenured professor makes learning more difficult.

“It’s definitely easier to learn from someone who’s been teaching for a while and has the background and experience,” he said. “It is a lot more difficult if the instructor has to figure out what he’s teaching at the same time the students are trying to figure it out.”

However, Magerkurth also said when he starts the semester off with a teacher assistant or graduate student, he does so with an open mind.

“Just as long as they have the commitment and want to be there, then that makes it easier to learn,” he said. “But if they are just there working to be a teacher so they can get summers off, then it’s a waste of our time.”

#1.887525:1911089647.jpg:demark1.jpg:Animal science professor Hans Stein, originally from Denmark, says teaching in a foreign country has its challenges.: