Voluntary-Mandatory Student Office Visits

The title of this week's teaching tip was gleaned from the late Leo Buscaglia, longtime professor at the University of Southern California, and author of numerous books on loving relationships. For decades, Dr. Buscaglia required students to visit him in his campus office, for 10 to 15 minutes, during which he planted the seeds for a more productive learning relationship. While such visits were sometimes resisted, even feared, by students who had never had a close relationship with a professor, they invariably achieved their goal of building a bridge to each student. Beginning several years ago, I benchmarked Dr. Buscaglia's tactic and have achieved similar positive results. Let me share how I manage this process.

During the first meeting of each class -- following an icebreaker exercise, I ask students to complete a Student Profile form. (A model is provided on page 77 of The Adjunct Professor's Guide to Success.) Then I tell students that at the following class meeting, a schedule will be circulated upon which I would like them to select a time slot during which we might meet. If a student or two were to come up at the end of that first meeting, I sometimes meet with them at that time, out of earshot of other students, or invite them to come to class prior to the next meeting for their visit. Having one appointment in advance allows me to ask that student's opinion of the usefulness of the meeting in front of the class. Before meeting with remaining students, I review their completed Student Profile form, and jot questions in the margins that might help me better understand their motivation for learning, challenges they are facing, etc., so that my instruction might be sensitized to better meet their needs.

At the second meeting of each class, I circulate the simple schedule that includes a couple of time slots at the end of that class meeting, plus other slots spread over the following week or two. When my class meets "off campus" and there are no "offices" available, I meet each student in the vacant classroom, or other isolated area where we will not likely be interrupted. When we begin, I remind each student that my goal is to establish our communications, so that if we later have a challenge to address I might do a more effective job of addressing it. After some initial discomfort, most students open up quite well, and often relay some truly critical information. In spite of their countenance, most really do want you to know who they really are! Guided by the Student Profile form, I clarify any issues that might have a significant impact on their success in the class.

Voluntary-mandatory office hours are a terrific way to solidify the special bond between a professor and a student. Why not give it a try and see if the results are not worth the time and effort for you!

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