Last Wednesday I had a few students drop in during my office hours. I spent about half an hour talking with each one about their papers, which were due yesterday. With each student, we focused on some specific issues that were in their writing, looking at how to eliminate them from the paper and to make their writing generally more clear. At the end of ninety minutes or so, I found myself feeling pretty good about the teaching that I’d been able to do but also musing on the fact that more students do not take advantage of my office hours, digital or otherwise.
Wanting to encourage more students to use office hours, I began the next class asking how many of them had ever had private writing instruction. Unsurprisingly, none of them raised their hands. As college freshmen, their experiences learning to write thus far have been in classrooms of 30 or so students, where the teacher can only provide basic information about writing as well as feedback on the 100+ essays that he or she may have to grade. I suggested to them that what we’ve been doing in our class is pretty similar to that approach. What makes college different from high school and what makes it so much more expensive, I told them, is the chance to sit down and work one-on-one with a professor. Office hours with me are individual, private writing instruction. Office hours with a political science professor can provide insight into statistics that you might never get in her class. These are the experiences that can by and large shape a college experience.
And what do you know? My next block of office hours was so full of students that I had to find an extra hour and half.
I don’t yet know if my pep talk will lead to the students continuing to make more of my office hours, but I am optimistic. For this Open Thread Wednesday, I’d like to ask how do you encourage your students to come to office hours? Let us know in the comments!