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I find that a not-so-insignificant number of my students could benefit from coming to talk with me during office hours about homework assignments, their exam preparations, etc., and I'm looking for ways to encourage them to do so. I am a big proponent of students being proactive, and figuring out on their own that they need to seek out help, but I am not seeing enough progress on this front and am, thus, looking for alternatives.

One of the main problems I am observing is that, on homework solutions, some students clearly don't know what they are doing, and coming to talk to me about how to proceed could potentially be very beneficial for them.

Since good students already utilize office hours, when needed, what are some effective ways of getting the relatively weaker students to attend office hours?

One idea I am toying with at the moment is to make office hour interactions with me grade-able, and worth a certain percentage of the grade. As an example, consider the following:

Say a homework is assigned, student W is the "weaker" student, student S is the "stronger" student, the homework is worth 10 points, and the "interaction-with-me" component is worth some amount of points, say, 10.

Student S turns in a solution, which is correct/mostly correct [say, 85% or more correct]. In this case, student S would receive anywhere from 8.5 to 10 points on the homework grade and, since their score on the homework is greater than or equal to some threshold, say, 85%, they also score 10 points on the interaction component, whether or not they utilized office hours.

Now, consider student W: If student W utilizes office hours, and it seems like they are really trying to understand how to tackle the homework assignment, then this student would receive 10 points for the interaction component [student W's homework score, though, would reflect their performance on the homework]; else if student W does not utilize office hours, and they scored below some threshold on the homework [again, say, 85%], student W would then receive whatever they earned on the homework and zero points for the interaction component.

The above is just one idea I have at the moment. One thing I don't like about it is that it increases the documentation burden on my end. One possible solution to that would be to require students to document their office hour interactions with me on their solutions such that it would be a relatively quick check for me at grading time.

1 Answer 1

I have found personal (email) invitations to be very effective at getting certain students to come to office hours. (After attending once by personal invitation, they seem to be much more likely to come again without an invitation.)

The emails typically look something like this:

Hi Jane,

I noticed that some students, including you, had trouble with the theoretical basket weaving questions on Homework 3. I would be happy to review this topic with you during my office hours this Monday, 3-6PM in room 901. If you have class or other obligations during that time, you can email me to set up an appointment at another time.