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4 Connections: Schedule One-on-One Meetings


Many students will never use your office hours or the extra time you provide before and after class, or online, for questions. It’s possible that in all their schooling up until this point, the only time students went to an office, came early, stayed late, or arranged a meeting was when they were in trouble. Others may be intimidated or think you will judge them if they admit they’re struggling. While none of these concerns may be true, they are real for many students. Building one-on-one meetings into your course as a requirement breaks down this stigma and fear. It also makes it easier for you to find out how each student is doing individually.

Individual conferences are a mainstay of many writing classes - from K-12 through college. There, the student-instructor meetings often occur during “workshop” time when the class is writing. More than providing the instructor with an opportunity to check in, one-on-one meetings can empower students with the skills and information they need to be successful - not only in your class but in college. Through individualized meetings, students:

  • learn how to expect more of themselves;
  • receive constant, timely feedback and clarification; and
  • learn how to manage academic loads (via)

Additionally, individual conferences support the development of inclusive and equitable classroom climates. As Donna Shurm writes, individual conferences level the playing field. Instructors have the opportunity to “renegotiate the teaching-learning process” with their students and facilitate connections between new learning and learning outcomes. And, as with the other 4 Connections practices, one-on-one meetings have the potential to build better relationships between students and instructors.

If you are teaching online, or otherwise can’t incorporate in-class conferences into your class, consider the many ways you can connect outside of the classroom. In his article “The Power of Student-Faculty Contact Outside The Classroom: Supporting Evidence & Underlying Explanation,” author Joe Cusseo writes that “Faculty-student contact outside the classroom is empirically associated with multiple, positive outcomes, such as:

  • retention/persistence to graduation
  • academic achievement/performance
  • critical thinking
  • personal and intellectual development
  • educational aspirations
  • satisfaction with faculty and
  • Overall college satisfaction.”

Cuseo posits that the outside-of-the-classroom meeting has unique benefits and suggests six reasons why. First, that it occurs in a less formal context than the classroom, so a student may feel less threatened or intimidated about discussing their ideas or concerns. The faculty member is also more likely to be seen as a real “person” outside of the classroom, and therefore easier to approach. Similarly, faculty verbal interaction with students outside the classroom is likely to be more conversational and less didactic or prescriptive than it is inside the classroom.

Cuseo also suggests that the one-on-one interaction is an ideal social context for learning and that it allows the student to gain some control of the agenda and the topics discussed ---  in contrast to the classroom where the instructor dominates the agenda and the flow of conversation.
Finally, the ideas that are exchanged in these meetings are non-evaluative and more intrinsically motivated, in contrast to ideas exchanged in the classroom where the student is responsible for remembering those ideas, because they will be evaluated for their comprehension of them.
Perhaps most importantly, Informal out-of-class contact between faculty and students has been found to be particularly beneficial in promoting the persistence of students who are “withdrawal prone,” such as low-income, first-generation college students.

Regardless of how you schedule one-on-one meetings, here are three things we have learned that can help you plan and implement them:

  1. The heart of a one-on-one meeting is that the student has your undivided attention as an individual. In other words, they feel like the only person in the room.
  2. The meeting is in no way punitive.
  3. The meeting lasts 10 minutes or less and has a clear focus

Of course, as you contemplate the many benefits of scheduling one-on-one meetings with your students, you may also be wondering how much time this practice will add to your already busy schedule. Although 4 Connections best practices do recommend scheduling multiple individual meetings with each of your students, it’s important to remember that these meetings are meant to be short - just 10 minutes or less. Below, you will find tools and strategies to help you schedule and make the most of these meetings.

Ultimately, it may help to consider that “conferencing individually with our students doesn't take away from instructional time; in reality, it is some of the best instructional time we'll spend with our students.”


Many academic programs at COD build student conferences or individual milestone meetings into their curriculum - English composition faculty, for example, regularly hold conferences with each of the students in their writing classes.

For other instructors, however, it can be logistically challenging to make these regular meetings a reality. In order to benefit from the many positives that come out of meetings, instructors in this position should think about alternative options that might have the same impact or generate similar outcomes.

Meeting Topic Ideas

  • Q&A Form: For each meeting (e.g., beginning, mid, and/or end of semester), provide students in advance with the list of questions you will ask during the meeting. Provide space for them to jot down notes. Also, ask them to write down at least one question they want to ask you. Have them bring the form to their meeting and follow it as needed.
  • Project Process: Build in a meeting as part of a project. This could be a planning meeting to help students get started if they have never done a project like this before. It could be a status report midway or a final review of a draft.
  • Post-Exam Review: Meet with each student and review the exam questions that they answered incorrectly. Ask them to read through the prompt/question and describe how they understood it. You may discover that their answer was correct for how they understood the question. Practice Paradox and add a point to their score (and revise the question to be more clear in the future). When they reveal their thinking process and it is incorrect, use the time to help them understand the topic.

Scheduling Meetings

Faculty members use a variety of approaches for scheduling one-on-one meetings.

  • Office Hours: Full-time faculty frequently use their office hours as the time designated for one-on-one meetings. The use of office hours can pose challenges for students who are only on campus during class time. Office hours are also a challenge for adjunct faculty who typically do not get paid for office hours.
  • Class Conferences: One option is to use regular class time for individual meetings with students. This might look like holding class for all students for the first hour or so of a scheduled period and then following with conferences.
  • Lab Hours: Some faculty members have tightened up their lab documents, creating stronger guides that students can go through mostly on their own/with peers. During lab time, faculty members meet with individual students, taking breaks between meetings to check back in with the larger group.
  • Use Technology: Whether your class meets face-to-face, hybrid, or online, use online tools for your meetings. Both you and your students have easy access to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (see Learning Technologies' quick tip guide for using Collaborate for office hours). You might also consider, Skype, Zoom, or Google Meet.
  • Use Email: Some students don’t feel comfortable using a webcam (or cannot because of life happening in the background) or online tools in general. A faculty member at Saddleback Community College adapted to this by scheduling varying online office hours where he is available via email for immediate response. He posts the hours clearly and is able to “meet” with a number of students by replying to emails they send during those time frames.


The Student Perspective

Scheduling Tools

Learn More:


Biehler, Dawn. "Preparing for Effective One-on-One Conferencing." Writing Across the Curriculum, University of Wisconsin Madison. Retrieved from

Cuseo, Joe. "The power of student-faculty contact outside the classroom: Supporting evidence and underlying explanations." (2015). Retrieved from

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  • Last Updated: Jun 5, 2022 7:52 AM
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