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The Judicious Professor

The Judicious Professor

A learner-centered philosophy
for teaching and learning
in higher education

By Paul Gathercoal and Forrest Gathercoal

Caddo Gap Press

Professors appear larger than life to students; as a result, they must personify a model worthy of imitation. It is imperative that professors keep alive every student’s belief that they are acting in the best interests of the student, through a strong and viable helping relationship of trust and care.

The proverbial “keeper of the gate of knowledge” has long been used as a metaphor characterizing a professor’s responsibility to maintain standards and as a rationale for maintaining rigor and high expectations for student performance in specific disciplines. The metaphor also connotes the professor’s conscience of academic responsibility to the discipline itself as well as to the greater society. The Judicious Professor is about the importance of student perception; whether professors appear as keepers who are only “guarding the gate” or whether they appear as interested professionals who are “helping students through the gate.” We feel the professor’s responsibility for “gate-keeping” should never be compromised. Rigor, quality of performance, and level of understanding must be held inviolate. Yet the manner with which professors “keep the gate” can be improved to the point that professional “gate-keeping” will dramatically enhance the discipline and further intellectual development of students. When students perceive the “gate-keeper” as one who is sharing responsibility for student academic achievement, the number of successful students will increase greatly and the knowledge-base will be widely distributed throughout society.

The Judicious Professor provides professors with a foundation for a dialogical, pro-active approach to teaching and learning. By setting in motion at the beginning of each course mutual expectations that are grounded in a philosophy that helps students to respect and learn to adhere to mutual understandings, many of the problems caused by a reactive, didactic learning environment simply do not happen.


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The Judicious Professor
A learner-centered philosophy for teaching and learning in higher education