Frequent Student-Faculty Contact
David Royse (2001) (see my References page) gives an especially good summary of Chickering and Gamson’s findings after many years of research into teaching and learning. Here are the seven principles as paraphrased by Royse:
- Frequent student-faculty contact;
- The encouragement of cooperation among students;
- Active learning techniques;
- Prompt feedback;
- Emphasize time on task;
- Communicating high expectations; and
- Respecting diverse talents and ways of learning.
One of the major complaints I hear from students is that their instructor has not responded to their emails or returned their phone calls. Most adjuncts are not required to hold office hours, which only makes sense since most adjuncts don’t have offices. Email and phone calls are often the only way students can contact you outside of class.
I “suggest” to adjuncts that checking their email anything less than three times a week is probably not frequent enough. This garners a snicker from many. It seems I have quite a few OCD adjuncts who confess they check their email more than three times a day. Most of them make a serious attempt to arrive at school well before class and stay late to meet with students. I have had a few who schedule meetings with students at other times. A couple years ago, I had a statistics instructor who held “office hours” each weekend at the local Caribou Coffee shop.
I tell my adjuncts exactly how often they need to check their email. “Exactly,” I say, “often enough that your students never come to me to complain that you have not responded to their email.” Adjuncts at my college also have a voice mail box. I bet you can you guess how often I tell adjuncts to check their voice mail.
There are other ways to effectively communicate with your students. At my college, every course has a course shell, which is accessible to students and their instructors through our portal. Not all colleges provide this, but it does make for a good communication tool. Several of my adjuncts set up a more elaborate online presence using Blackboard, and a few use social networking tools like Facebook. I am not sure that these are as effective as email or phone calls when a student is in urgent need of assistance. Nevertheless, these are all good ways to promote frequent student-faculty contact.
The problem for many adjuncts is that they are so busy. I know a few who teach courses at two or three colleges, sometimes totaling more than a full time load. Many others have full time jobs. Then too, adjuncts have busy private lives – family, church, hobbies, clubs, recreational activities, and maybe even their own schooling.
But wait. What about students? Aren’t many of them equally busy? I know students who carry a full time load and work and have a family. When was the last time you told a student how sorry you were that he didn’t have the time to complete his paper and then give him another week? My guess is probably never, at least not without deducting from his grade. So don’t expect your students to feel sorry for you with your busy schedule. Don’t expect them to give you a week to answer a question or give them help with a problem. And never forget the GOLDEN RULE 🙂
© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.
Posted March 21, 2010