“Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most important factor in student motivation and involvement.” This is first of Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education at Chico State. One relatively untapped resource to increase student involvement outside of class is office hours.
In a low-stakes office meeting with you, students can learn about resources they need and ask questions in a safe environment without their peers present. Investing time with students can actually be a long-term time-saver if you can address problems before they get worse or help with initial drafts of papers before they’re submitted. So, why are office hours seldom utilized by students? Maybe they’re nervous. Maybe they don’t feel their reason for visiting is worth your time. Maybe they don’t want to appear to need extra help. Whatever the reason, helping students access your office hours is a great way to boost student engagement. Here are a few ways to help students access this valuable resource.
- Prop your door open during scheduled office hours and warmly greet them. Display your Safe Zone Ally placard on your door if you earned one from the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. If students apologize for bothering you, remind them that office hours are devoted to them and you’re glad they stopped by.
- Stagger office hour days and times to enable students with varied schedules to access you.
- Post office hours on your syllabus, on Blackboard, on your office door, and remind students about the benefits of office hours at key points in the course when you know students will need them most.
- Consider making an office hour visit an assignment with points attached to it. If necessary, you can give students a specific purpose for visiting (e.g. bring your most recent assignment and the single biggest question you have about the topics covered so far).
- Consider occasionally holding office hours off-campus at a coffee shop, the library, or a park as long as the location is accessible to all your students. If you regularly hold some of your office hours outdoors, you could have a “walking meeting” which might be less intimidating to some students.
- Offer some office hours online. Zoom is a great platform for this and you have a free account through Chico State. Contact TLP if you need assistance.
- Consider offering some group office hours to be held in an empty classroom. Perhaps these could be theme-based office hours (e.g. test prep, participating in research, finding internships, applying to graduate school)
Faculty are partners with students in the learning process. The more resources students can access, the more successful the partnership.