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:
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:
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:
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.
Faculty members use a variety of approaches for scheduling one-on-one meetings.
Biehler, Dawn. "Preparing for Effective One-on-One Conferencing." Writing Across the Curriculum, University of Wisconsin Madison. Retrieved from https://dept.writing.wisc.edu/wac/preparing-for-effective-one-on-one-conferencing/
Cuseo, Joe. "The power of student-faculty contact outside the classroom: Supporting evidence and underlying explanations." (2015). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/284464560_The_Power_of_Student-Faculty_Contact_Outside_The_Classroom_Supporting_Evidence_Underlying_Explanations