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Monday, November 5, 2012

How To Use My Office Hours

So as a student, how can you make the most effective use of my office hours?

You can use your professor's office hours for several purposes, like asking for assistance on an assignment, requesting a letter of recommendation, or clarifying feedback on graded work. Arguing over a grade, or having the professor read an assignment not yet turned in to see if you are on the right track, are not the most effective activities.

So here are some tips:

1. Tell me you're coming and why. Of course, I am always there, but it helps to know in advance. Maybe I'm having a long line of students from my other course, the one you are not in. I can advise you about optimal times.

2. If you make an appointment,whether during regular hours or at other times, show up.

3.Have a clear purpose in mind. Be prepared. If you have a form for me to sign have it ready. Don't carry an uncovered cup of coke into my office.

4. Tell me the thesis of your paper, but don't ask me to proofread the first three pages. Ask me for clarification of a point from class, but don't ask me to repeat an entire day's worth of material that you missed.

5. You are forging part of your professional network by coming to see me. I might write you a recommendation in the future, after all. You are not wasting my time, because office hours and writing recommendations are a significant part of my job. I do want to know about your career aspirations and interests, because I need to know something about you if you need my help later on. So does your visit to my office further this aim? If you are complaining about a grade, or otherwise being a high maintenance student, you are not making a good impression on me. It is more impressive to day "How can I improve my performance" than to say, "Why did you give me a B- on this paper?"


profacero said...

I would rather have them do any of the things you describe than what they actually do, which is ask me to teach them, during office hours, the content of the course prerequisites, or tell them exactly what kind of bribe I want for a grade.

Having people try to use my office hours for the above two purposes is yet another reason why I so dislike academia: everything that happens, from male faculty insisting on calling me "ma'am" and "Mrs." but not by my name, or by any professional title, to students pushing, during office hours, for the kind of thing mentioned above, so boring and also demeaning.

Drew M. Loewe said...

"[H]aving the professor read an assignment not yet turned in to see if you are on the right track, [is] not [the best use of this time]."


I teach nothing but writing courses, both first-year and in our undergraduate writing & rhetoric major.

Of course, I want them to bring drafts to office hours.

Why discourage students from seeking feedback on work in progress?

Jonathan said...

Discussing the ideas for a paper is different from asking for reassurance. Certain students don't really want to engage in ideas or discussion, but simply to see if they are ok. That is not the best use of my office hours, and I stand by that.

Drew M. Loewe said...

Well, yeah, you don't forecast a grade in advance or get suckered into writing the paper for the student by spoon-feeding content for it. It's not an interview.

But it only takes a minor act of will on your part to turn unproductive visits into opportunities for learning. Just start asking questions instead of giving answers. Get Socratic. You can turn many of those otherwise-bland occasions into something useful and perhaps even tweak some students' conceptions of what adult learners do when seeking help from professors. Those who don't want that kind of help will not come back. Those who do, or can learn to want it, will. Unfortunately, the way you worded your blog post is going to minimize, not maximize, your chances of having such meaningful exchanges because it can fairly be read, especially by students, as "I don't want to read drafts."

Jonathan said...

Why would you assume I don't know how to make the best of a situation when the student does bring in a draft for reassurance? Are you always that condescending with your colleagues?

profacero said...

" Are you always that condescending with your colleagues?"

Thank you for asking that question of that person.

That person whose condescending attitude is a really good example of why I do not like professors: that is the kind of attitude they have, most of them, toward students and colleagues alike, and then they call themselves "good teachers."

Dios me guarde de estos pedantes.