Student Hours (Office Hours)

Providing dedicated time each week during the semester for students to meet with you outside of class can help support student success. 

Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of classes is the most important factor in student motivation and involvement. Faculty concern helps students get through rough times and keep on working. Knowing a few faculty members well enhances students’ intellectual commitment and encourages them to think about their own values and future plans (Chickering and Gamson, 1986).

But students often do not drop in during set office hours, undermining the usefulness of the allotted time. Oft-cited reasons for why students do not attend office hours include: scheduling conflicts and lack of time; finding other, more convenient ways of getting questions answered; and perceiving instructors as unfriendly or intimating (Abdul-Wahab, et al 2019).

Strategies for making “office hours” more appealing to students

  • Change the name: “Office hours” may not connote to students what we as instructors intend: calling them “Student hours” or “Drop-in hours” may help (Nusbaum 2019).
  • Explain the purpose: Offering unstructured time to “drop in” may prove amorphous or intimidating to students. Some students may assume they have to have a question in order to visit or need to be struggling in the course (Smith et al 2017). Promote office hours by explicitly and clearly giving examples of what is possible: having informal conversations about how the course fits into the student’s interests, discussing career plans and research opportunities, getting to know a student’s goals to better write letters of recommendations, etc. Let students know that just stopping by to say “hello” is a welcome option.
  • Reframe the purpose: Designate the time as “tutoring” help (Joyce 2017) or “springboard sessions” (Robertson and Smith 2020). Consider using the time as a “course center,” where students can show up to study in your presence. You’ll be there to answer questions if they arise, but students don’t have to come with prepared questions (Chung and Hsu 2006; Weimer 2019). 
  • Change the location: Offering online opportunities via Zoom may help students who find it difficult to attend in person. In addition, meeting at a more informal and open location such as a campus cafe or study-lounge area may be more inviting to students, as some may find a professor’s office awkward and intimidating (Cafferty 2021; Glynn-Adey 2020).
  • Invite students: For a variety of reasons, students may not initiate contact with instructors, even if they know them to be approachable (Briody et al, 2019). Break the ice by scheduling one-on-one meetings with students. Create sign-ups for meetings through Google Calendar or Calendly, for example. Be intentional in framing student-instructor meetings invitations as positive and not punitive. Give students context for why you would like to meet with them, so they aren’t nervous to meet with you (Harris 2019).
  • Encourage with credit: Make such interactions part of the course grade. If your time during office hours amounts to “2,700 minutes” spent per semester waiting for students to show up, why not specifically dedicate 10-20 minutes per student and make the minutes count? (Walsh 2021). Make the sessions part of course participation grades or an optional stand-alone assignment. 
  • Pursue active inclusivity: All students can benefit from conversations with their instructors, when there is an opportunity to address not only concerns in the course, but also educational, extra-curricular, and career opportunities. Recognize that first-generation students in particular may not be aware of this possibility, which is often considered part of the “hidden curriculum” of university life (Venti 2016; Quintana 2019). Racial-identity differences between faculty and students may also contribute to a student’s reluctance to initiate conversation with an instructor. Encourage students to meet with you to build upon strengths you observe in their learning and classroom engagement (Robertson and Smith 2020).
  • Show empathy (and perhaps humor!): Acknowledge the power differential inherent in the professor-student dynamic, and remind students that you wish to share your knowledge and expertise with them to help them succeed in their studies. Meeting during office hours is an opportunity for you to provide students with more tailored feedback than is often possible during a class meeting, and you welcome the chance to do this. ASU created a parody video to address this fear, which you might wish to share with students (Arizona State University 2015).

Sample syllabus language 

  • “Office hours are scheduled for [DAY / TIME] during the semester. I welcome and encourage you to drop in to ask questions about the class, to discuss career opportunities in the field, or simply to say hello. Office hours are a dedicated time during the week for us to meet outside of class and talk about anything related to the course. The time is tailored specifically to your educational and professional goals. If you prefer to schedule an appointment for an in-person or virtual meeting, please use my Google calendar to select a time.”
  • “Come by during my scheduled office hours to talk about the class. I can help answer questions you might have about the material, talk about ways you might apply what we are learning about outside of class, or discuss career goals you have. I expect everyone to take advantage of an individual meeting at least once a semester. It helps me get to know you better and to support you and your learning. If you haven’t stopped in by the end of the first month of the semester, don’t be surprised if I reach out to you to schedule an appointment. I value the opportunity to meet with you, and I hope that you find it worthwhile, too!”
  • “I offer open drop-in hours for students twice a week throughout the semester. You are welcome to come and simply work on assignments in my presence (I’ll be available to help if you need it!). We can chat about extra-curricular opportunities to learn more about the field and build your resume for your future career. Drop-in hours are informal; no appointment necessary. I will be available during the time to address anything related to the class.”

Resources and References

Abdul-Wahab, S. A., Salem, N. M., Yetilmezsoy, K., Fadlallah, S. O. (2019). Students’ reluctance to attend office hours: reasons and suggested solutions. Journal of Educational and Psychological Studies, 13(4), 715-732. DOI: 

Arizona State University [ASU Unscripted]. (2015, November 12). Introducing FOH: faculty office hours. vimeo.

Briody, E.K., Wirtz, E., Goldenstein, A., Berger, E.J. (2019). Breaking the tyranny of office hours: Overcoming professor avoidance. European Journal of Engineering Education, 44:5, 666-687, DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2019.1592116

Cafferty, P. (2021). Taking the office hour out of the office. Journal of College Science Teaching, 50, 3-7.

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 3–7. 

Chung, C., & Hsu, L. (2006). Encouraging students to seek help: supplementing office hours with a course center. College Teaching, 54 (3), 253–258. 

Glynn-Adey, P. (2021). Public space office hours. College Teaching, 69 (3), 180-181. DOI: 10.1080/87567555.2020.1845599

Griffin, W., Cohen, S. D., Berndtson, R. Burson, K. M., Camper, K. M, Chen, Y. & Smith, M. A.. (2014). Starting the conversation: an exploratory study of factors that influence student office hour use. College Teaching. 62 (3): 94–9.

Harris, D. (2019). Office hours are not obsolete: fostering learning through one-on-one student meetings. Duquesne Law Review. 57 (1): 43-72. 

Joyce, A. (2017). Framing office hours as tutoring. College Teaching, 65 (2), 92-93.

Nusbaum, A. [@amy_nusbaum]. (2019, February 26). This is why I also call them “student hours” on my syllabus. [Tweet]. Twitter. 

Quintana, C. (2019, February 15). Can this man change how elite colleges treat low-income students? The Chronicle of Higher Education

Robertson, K., Smith, T. (2020). For those who need it most: using active inclusivity to increase office hour attendance and extracurricular activities. Faculty Focus. Magna Publications.

​​Smith, M., Chen Y., Berndtson, R., Burson, K.M., and Griffin, W. (2017). “Office hours are kind of weird”: reclaiming a resource to foster student-faculty interaction. InSight, 12 (1), 14–29. 

Walsh, M. (2021). Making the most of 2,700 minutes. The Teaching Professor. Magna Publications.

Weimer, M. (2019). Office hours alternative resonates with students. Faculty Focus. Magna Publications.

Venti, E. “Two ways to help first-generation students navigate your college’s ‘hidden curriculum.’” EAB, 2016.

For more information or help, please email the Office for Faculty Excellence or make an appointment with a consultant.

Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2024 10:49 am

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