Indiana University Teaching Handbook
Preparing to Teach
Adapted with permission from Unruh, 1986
Office hours are an important extension of the classroom. This is one of the few times when the protective shield of impersonality at the university can be broken.
Some students are reluctant to come to office hours. Freshmen have just come from a high school environment where going to the office meant being punished. One instructor we know started calling it Study Table instead of Office Hours and found that many more students wanted to study with a group of fellow students than had ever wanted to come to the office.
Another strategy to encourage student-instructor interaction is to require all students to sign up for an office conference with you at a key point in the semester (before a major exam, before a major paper). Shy students will thus have a compelling reason to speak with you face-to-face, something they might never volunteer to do. This also gives you an opportunity to have a conversation with each student about his/her performance, and to offer encouragement on an individual level. Development of a more informal, personal relationship with students can improve the atmosphere of the classroom.
Getting students to come to your office hours is not always a problem; you may find that many students will come in, and for many different reasons. You may find yourself helping a student with the material for your course, with the logistics of a course that contains unfamiliar material, or with a personal problem. You should be aware of ways to facilitate a helpful tutorial or counseling session:
- Try to be as approachable as possible. The best thing to do when a student comes in during your office hours is to make him or her feel welcome.
- Listen to your students when they come to your office. Give them your undivided attention. The best way to show that you are listening is to ask questionsit also shows students that you find their concerns important.
- Refer students to campus services. There may be situations in which a student needs help (e.g. financial or emotional counseling) that you are not the most qualified person to provide. If you feel that the student needs advice or assistance that you are unable to give, you may be able to suggest someone who can provide it. Making referrals is an appropriate and important responsibility.
The following links will take you to additional readings associated with this section of the handbook.