5 Other course opportunities: student/office hours, tutorials/DGDs

In this section, you identify ways to make office hours and tutorial sessions (e.g., discussion groups) more inclusive. With every contact point with students, we have opportunities to make the educational space more welcoming. For many students, the university environment is a daunting environment. The makes it even more so, particular for students who are the first in their generation to attend university, lack a support system, or face systemic barriers (e.g., racialized students). While we only touch on the hidden curriculum here, there many other resources that take a deeper dive (e.g., Uncovering the hidden curriculum, Boston University).

As with other parts of your course, you can build in new aspects with time–there is no need to do everything at once. Students will respond well and appreciate the respect and clear communication you bring to the course, and won’t be counting how many ways you demonstrate inclusion. New professors, we’re especially speaking to you. 🙂

Student/Office hours

Having a flexible way for students to meet with you can be more inclusive for students in a few ways:

  • Make it less daunting to meet with you (indeed, students may be quite apprehensive about approaching you)
    • E.g., hold student hours right after a class and in the same space. Students are already there and can see how others ask questions.
  • Make access easier with online student hours
    • E.g., Hold all/some student hours online can make access easier for some. A trip to campus or to the professor’s office can be challenging if they are also working, have classes across campus, are sick, or have mobility issues. Even in-person classes can benefit from the flexibility of virtual hours or other options.
  • Clarify the purpose
    • E.g., A name change to “Student hours” (or other names!) changes the focus to indicate the students are the priority during that time. You can also describe the purpose of student hours (e.g., in the syllabus, in class). Many students don’t know what the time is for or what they can ask about.
    • E.g., Give a theme to their office hours, especially early in the term. These could include: how to learn effectively in this course, research opportunities at the university.
    • E.g., have one or more office hours designed as a social time (Quaf with the Prof, Glass with the Class: with an invitation to bring a drink such as water, tea…)
  • Build rapport
    • E.g., When holding student hours in person or online, consider taking some time to get to know the students themselves. Many students are also interested in research or your career decisions and would be happy to hear more.
  • Give the option to schedule a time to meet with you at a time that fits both your schedules
    • E.g., Suggest that students schedule times through email, a scheduling app (e.g., Calendly), or other means. Despite excellent intentions to find a suitable time for Student/Office hours, many students will likely have conflicts that would force them to choose between asking questions for your course and satisfying their other commitments (e.g., job, laboratory course).

Tutorial (DGD) sessions

Running tutorials or follows the same principles as classes, with the added advantage of smaller groups (usually). You can support teaching assistants’ training by:

  • Encouraging TAs to attend training (including using TAs’ contract hours for this purpose)
  • Sharing a Guide for Teaching Assistants and other resources
  • Communicating and modelling your own expectations with respect to teaching and learning, as well as inclusive practices

Teaching assistants are typically early in their careers and can learn a lot from you about equity and inclusion in a professional work space. What an opportunity to support a new generation of highly-trained graduates!

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