Helicopter Professors

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date



educational psychology and metacognition


Helicopter professors, like their parenting counterparts, hover over students, guiding them precisely, and swooping in to rescue them from any hint of failure or challenge. Just as helicopter parenting can be harmful to children, helicopter professoring poses similar threats to students, not the least of which is creating disengaged students dependent on professors for all aspects of their learning and development.

The instinct to be a helicopter professor is understandable in light of several social and cultural circumstances of today’s legal education. First, law students today are largely Millennials who were helicoptered parented and educated in a system that often focused solely on test results. Second, law professors are at times overly focused are garnering positive student evaluation scores, which may be easier to do with a little extra spoon feeding. Professors too may themselves be helicopter parents in their non-work hours, a behavioral pattern that too easily can infiltrate the classroom. Finally, law schools today are seeing a rise in students that have a consumerist attitude and in some cases lower academic credentials; those types of students expect and perhaps need additional assistance. But satisfying that need, combined with the focus on quantifying assessment practices and on improving teaching techniques, may easily cross the line into helicopter behavior.

This Article, after detailing the factors that contribute to the helicopter professoring phenomenon, provides a theoretical framework for understanding helicoptering behavior as well as guidance for avoiding the negative manifestations of such behavior. Looking to parenting literature and advice rendered about how to not be a helicopter parent, this Article outlines a teaching style to help professors be responsive to students’ needs, maintain high expectations of their students, and yet avoid the harmful helicoptering behavior that can stunt individual learning and development. Offering practical suggestions and also ways to navigate the contemporary law school environment, this Article seeks to encourage professors to be authoritative educators who help develop internally-motivated learners who become successful, self-sufficient attorneys.