How and why you should attend Office Hours

According to a recent study, 66% of students have not attended the office hours for a course and only 8% attended office hours more than once a month (Weimer). I put together a few ways to break down the stigma against office hours, reasons not to attend office hours, ways to motivate yourself to go, things to talk about and/or discuss, and why it’s important for professor to have students attend office hours. We need to look at our professors as a ‘Wizard of Oz’ and less like a high school teacher.

Breaking down the stigma:

Taken from the paper ‘Why Students Don’t Attend Office Hours’, the study used found several reasons why students did not go. Here are a few of the popular ones and why students should still go.

  1. Will what my professors say during office hours be useful? Yes! If you are making the time to attend the office hours, your professor will more than likely give you added suggestions on homework and the current essay and help go over any questions you have. This is the professor’s scheduled time to help you in addition to class time.
  2. Where are the professor’s offices located and when are the office hours? All the offices are within a 2 minute walk from Nipissing’s front entrance. Professor’s have set office hours, so check when they are but they are flexible and usually willing to meet at a time that is convenient for both the student and professor.
  3. I’m in my third year and this is a first year class. Although you have more experience in class dynamics and know how to master an essay, meeting with your professor can bring that 70 average to a solid 80 with your added experience and added suggestions from your professor.
  4. The course is not not part of my major and/or it’s easy. Whether the course is part of your major or not, you are still paying for it. And although the course is easy, it will still cost you. Attending office hours will just make it that much easier and will bring up your average with the elective.

Reasons not to attend office hours:

So now you are thinking about how easy it is to attend office hours but don’t get ahead of yourself. Your professor is not going to hand you the answers to the midterm or give you bonus points just for showing up.

  1. Can you correct my homework? As much as we would all love to go back to grade 5 and not have to pay tuition fees, life doesn’t work like that. In grade 5 we didn’t have answers in the back of the book so let’s at least use that to our advantage! Your professor is more than willing to help you, you just need to narrow down what exactly you need help with.
  2. What did I miss last class? Just because you slept in (which we’ve all done), doesn’t mean your professor did! To ask them to go over the entire slideshow they just covered the other day for one person, is a bit unfair to them. Instead, read over the slides and ask them questions you had on the slides.
  3. Why did I only get a 60% on my essay? Instead of playing the blame game, think of more constructive ways to ask such as, ‘how could I have improved my mark?’, ‘what was I missing in my essay?’, ‘can you better explain the feedback you provided?’, and ‘what does a 90% essay look like?’. Using these sort of questions gives you a better idea as to where you can improve and gives a better understanding of where you went wrong.
  4. What is going to be on the midterm tomorrow? If you’re midterm is tomorrow, it’s a bit late to be asking what you should have already been studying. It’s unfair to both yourself to leave it to the last minute, and the professor for having to try to help you cram.

Here are a few ways to motivate yourself to attend office hours:

  1. Passing by. Class ended early? Have a few minutes before class? Head over to your professor’s office and see if they are in! Catch up on what to know for next class or get that test you missed picking up a few classes ago.
  2. Schedule it in. Simply booking an appointment will force you to review and have questions ready for them. It will also count as productive studying! This works well if you are having a hard time starting an essay or procrastinating as you can bring it and ask for help getting over that writer’s block or for ideas of where to start.
  3. Free Tips. Feel like your essay is missing that one thing? Ask your professor! Trying to figure out a way to memorize all the dates? Go drop by, they may have a fantastic secret way of memorizing it!
  4. Honours student. Some professors give free bonus points for stopping by! If you stop by, it will force you to attend regular hours as it could be awkward seeing them in the hallway after missing class.

Things you can discuss:

Here is a list of what to talk about when attending office hours. We broke the stigma, we know what not to talk about and we are motivated to go but what do we say??

  1. Current assignment. As mentioned above, ask questions about upcoming tests and assignments to help get you started.
  2. Correcting past tests and assignments. Go over what you don’t understand and correct it for the final.
  3. Overall mark in class. Where can I improve my grade? Am I doing okay? Any other tips?
  4. Questions from lecture. Have you had any questions from class or heard something odd you would like repeated? Would you like to know more about a subject or where to get more information? This is the time and place to ask!
  5. Similar courses. If you enjoyed this class or professor, ask them what other classes are available. Maybe you are thinking of doing a minor or changing your major. Your professor can point you in the right direction and give you more detailed course information then the registrars or student services could (although they are amazingly helpful!).
  6. Program and Career Path. Not sure what to do after school? Wondering what other courses are suggested? Ask them. They’ve been through it and can give you more ideas and potential careers you never thought of.

Why Professors like you attending:

  1. They don’t always know what the class is understanding or what they should have gone over again. Coming in and talking to them helps them to gauge what to talk about next class and to help improve for the next year.
  2. They want to have discussions and with students coming in, it gives them more to talk about and feel more comfortable breaking the straight ‘read off slides’ routine.
  3. If enough students come in asking for help for the upcoming assignment, the professor knows there is more out there not speaking up. This gives them the chance to address issues during the next class and give more hints and suggestions for the class.
  4. More students means the more they will be open and available. If they are not needed they are not going to stick around after class and help with homework questions if you don’t show a need.

Overall, office hours are important and more students should attend. It’s an important part of school and a free tool most students miss out on.  Make a habit of attending and watch your grades climb. It’s all about what your priorities are and what you want out of your classes. Remember, stop looking at your professor as the high school teacher but as the Wizard of Oz.

-Tealia Carriere

Works Cited

Weimer, Maryellen. “Why Students Don’t Attend Office Hours.” Faculty Focus Why Students Dont Attend Office Hours Comments. Teaching Professor Blog, 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.