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Five ways to get the most out of office hours

Office Hours by Amanda Woodward: The Professor Is In!
Published September 18, 2018 by Julia Lane

Below are the top five things to keep in mind about your professor or TA's office hours: 

1. Office hours are set aside for YOU.

It may be nerve wracking to admit that you are struggling with, or even just have questions about an assignment; however, office hours are designed for you to get your questions answered and deepen your understanding of course expectations, assignments, and course content.

2. Don't wait! 

Attend your professor or TA’s office hours at the first sign of any issue, before real trouble has arisen in the course. Also, try to arrive in the first few minutes of office hours so that you get your chance to talk to the instructor. This is especially important during busy times of the term.

3. Come prepared.

Visiting your instructor with specific questions is more helpful than simply showing up and saying, “I’m confused.” Arriving to office hours prepared demonstrates that you are taking responsibility for your learning and that you value your instructor’s time.

When asking about an assignment: explain what you do understand and show the work you have already done on your assignment. Providing this background can help your instructor understand what you are finding challenging or perhaps not understanding, and offer helpful clarification.  

Visiting your professor before an exam may give you an opportunity to review the material that will be covered. Visit office hours after you have already done an initial review of the material. Ask the instructor if you’re on the right track in your areas of focus. Taking this step can help you cut out material that may not be important, saving you valuable study time and brain space.

4. Take the opportunity to review graded material.

It is okay to meet with your instructor if you are disappointed with the result you received on an assignment or exam, especially if you feel you were graded unfairly. Before you meet with your instructor, however, you should take a close look at where you lost marks and read any feedback you were provided. When you visit your instructor in their office hours, focus on seeking clarification on any parts of the feedback that you do not understood and ensuring that you fully understand how you were assessed.1 Students who take the time to learn from their mistakes perform better in subsequent assignments and increase their confidence as learners.

5. Build a relationship with your instructor.

Office hours are useful even beyond the opportunity for support and academic help they offer. Use this one-on-one time with your instructor to learn more about them – their research, awards and committee involvement, for example. While building a professional relationship outside the lecture halls takes time and effort, it ensures that you stand out from the crowd. And you will want to stand out when it comes time to ask for a reference letter or recommendation for a job, promotion or grad school.  

 

By Dal Sohal, MA, SLC Learning Services Coordinator 


[1] For questions about how to appeal a grade, contact the SFU Ombudsperson.

 

This is an excerpt from a recently created SLC handout. View the full handout, or visit the SLC in person.