Going to office hours shows you care about the class and helps build a relationship with the professor teaching it.
Students need to establish a relationship with their professors from the beginning of the semester, and attending office hours is a failsafe way to achieve that goal. However, it can be intimidating to speak with a professor you barely know. Beyond the uncertainty of knowing what to say, there might even be a fear that you are wasting your professor’s time or that you aren’t knowledgeable enough about the subject to engage in a conversation.
Of course professors are busy, but rest assured we enjoy interacting with students during office hours. We don’t expect students to be master researchers or even fault students if they don’t want to major in our subject area. The key is just coming at the beginning of the semester with a purpose (even to just introduce yourself), being enthusiastic and showing respect for the class.
Below are some questions to ask professors at the beginning of the semester that will help you learn more about their expectations while still building a relationship:
1. “From your experience teaching, what qualities do successful students in your course possess?”
This shows your professor that you care about doing well in the course and want to try your hardest to master the material.
2. “How would you describe your teaching style?”
Professors usually organize their class in a certain manner (lecture, in-class activities, discussions, sample problems, etc.) so it’s important to know how you need to prepare for class. Also, it gives students a good sense of what they need to be doing on their own time.
3. “How did you become interested in teaching this subject?”
This allows you to get to know your professor on a more personal level. Also, by sharing interests, you build more of a connection.
4. “What are your top three expectations for students at the beginning of the semester?”
Get off to a good start. By asking this question, you start to learn what makes a professor tick and what he or she will be looking for. If you tailor your work to these expectations, you will be happy with the outcome.
5. “What additional resources do you recommend if I want more information about what you are teaching?”
As I mentioned before, you don’t have to commit your life’s work to this subject matter. But if you actually read an additional article about the subject, it allows for an excellent follow-up conversation during office hours. Plus, you actually might learn more!
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