Importance of Office Hours

Professors talk a good deal about office hours, mainly as one more requirement they have put upon them by administrators.  Several years ago, we had a campus debate about them, as the faculty had pushed to have them lowered from 10 to 6.  The argument centered around the changes in technology, as they (I wasn’t here the year the change happened) pointed out that more students email than actually come see us in person.  A few years later, a faculty member pushed to raise that number (he didn’t win a lot of friends), and the number ultimately ended up at 8.

What’s interesting is that, during that debate, we were asked to calculate how many hours we were actually in our offices.  Most of our faculty hit double digits, and there were some of us who were above twenty.  Thus, the debate, at least in the faculty’s mind, turned into a discussion about whether or not we needed to have required office hours at all, as those people who want to do the minimum always will, while most of us will go beyond that because we want to help the students.

That brings me to a blog post I wrote this week that talks about the importance of office hours and getting students to our offices.  In a blog post from The Chronicle, David Goobler looks at research from a couple of articles.  My favorite is from a 2013 study in the Journal of Political Science Education.  The authors, Guerrero and Rod, write that students who didn’t visit a professor’s office at least once could expect to finish with an 82, while students who visited more than five times during a semester could expect, on average, an A. Continue reading


Too Much Discussion? Part Two

Last week, I wrote about a class where I have one student who tends to dominate the discussion, leading other students to largely check out (or, worse, roll their eyes whenever they (the student who talks a good deal) starts to say anything).  I talked about using a technique of dividing the students into rows first and calling on each row, then, this past week, dividing them into groups.  This week, I’d like to talk about how last week’s classes went, both positively and negatively. Continue reading

Too Much Discussion?

It’s not often I complain about having too much discussion in class, but I have one class this semester where I have that student.  Anyone who has taught knows about that student, in relation to discussion.  They (I’ll use plural to protect anonymity) feel like they have to contribute to every single conversation that goes on.  Even when I’m simply talking about an idea or even a technique to do something, they feel the need to chime in with their thoughts on the matter.  On the rare occasions when they’re not sharing thoughts with the entire class, they’re usually sharing them with whomever is around them.

I haven’t handled the situation as well as I could have.  I’ve waited too long to do anything about the situation, which means fewer and fewer students have been contributing to the discussion, letting them do all of the work.  Such an approach isn’t healthy for the class, and I know it.  I also know how challenging of a situation this one is.  I don’t want to squelch anyone who’s contributing to the class, but I also don’t want one person to dominate.  This week, I knew things needed to change. Continue reading

Students Know More Than We Think

I saw an essay this week on course evaluations, which shouldn’t surprise me, as there’s an essay about them every few days, it seems.  I’ve actually written about them twice in the past couple of years, including one just a few months ago (here’s the earlier one, if you’re curious).  In Madeline Elfenbein’s post, she talks about teaching students how to evaluate us better (she doesn’t mean give us higher scores, by the way) by talking with them about evaluations.  My favorite suggestion is when she tells students that gendered praise doesn’t do her any favors (“If I’m a man, don’t say I’m ‘the man.’ If I’m a woman, do not call me ‘nice.’ Your blandly gendered words of praise aren’t going to help me become a better teacher; nor are they going to help me get hired or promoted.”).

I was thinking about students and their perceptions of us this week because I had review sessions for two different classes.  We have the class (or those who choose to come–around half of the first class, slightly less than half of the second) over to our house where we have coffee and dessert and talk about the material again.  In both review sessions, they commented on something I do as a teacher, and it was something I had never noticed. Continue reading