Who is coming to office hours?
And what do we talk about?
Office hour is a great time to spend focused attention on a topic or question. But are students coming? And do students know what they are for?
In a recent faculty meeting, a faculty member shared that they are shifting the name from “office hours” to “student hours.” Why? “It’s a service they’re already paying for; they’re paying for their course, which includes office hours.”
Some might agree or disagree. But what I found interesting after reading the recent Chronicle of Higher Education newsletter, “Do Your Students Know What Office Hours Are For?”, I was reminded of a couple of fundamental and equitable concerns.
Aside from clarifying content and questions about grades, do students really know why they should go to office hours? The report cited in the Chronicle newsletter found that nearly 40% of instructors and students’ responded that students aren’t coming to office hours because they don’t have questions. In the same faculty meeting, one faculty shared that they post a list of questions students are welcome to ask during office hours. Students see this list the moment they come to office hours. Questions and topics can include your research, after all, we are a research institution. Share your research in class and offer an opportunity to discuss more during office hours.
Consider offering a Zoom option during your in-person office hours. Students might have schedules that preventing them from getting to your in-person office hours, while some might not know where to find your office (I still have trouble finding Slichter Hall).
The data from the report also showed other barriers preventing students from coming to office hours, which include scheduling conflicts (40.9% of students from the study reported this) and the students finding alternative ways (like classmates and/or friends) to find the information they need (11.7% of student from study reported this). So it happens.
Further Reading and Additional Resources to Encourage
Hsu J, Rowland-Goldsmith M, and Benaksas Schwartz E. Student Motivations and Barriers toward Online and In-Person Office Hours in STEM Courses. CBE- Life Sciences Education, Vol. 21. No. 4. 20 Sept 2022.
Surveying over 500 students, predominately life sciences majors, at an R2 institution in spring 2021, this report compares faculty’s perception to students’ response to their motivation and barriers of attending office hours. The report also includes recommendations to promote and encourage office hours attendance.
Using Office Hours Effectively, from Association for Psychological Science.
Teaching tips and strategies on how you can effectively manage students (and sometimes student’s emotions) during office hours.
Student focused (and sharable to your students)
Quick Tips for Meeting Instructors In-Person, by UCLA WI+RE.
Created by UCLA students for students, this quick module include hands on activities to give students tips on making the most of their (and your) time during office hours.
Using Office Hours Effectively, by the Learning Center at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Created to address the expectations at larger institutions, this handout aims to help students on how to effectively use office hours by providing the when and how to attend office hours.