The teacher is approachable to students outside the classroom.

Teaching begins in the classroom, but there are many powerful ways to continue connecting and teaching beyond that. Consider your own background: how did your program, instructors, and campus enable you to learn outside the classroom walls? These are often the most memorable college experiences! There are a multitude of ways teachers can be approachable and truly involved in students’ “extra-classroom” learning. Being there for students, finding ways to extend learning outside the classroom, and offering mentorship are three means of approachability and relationship building that can be highly meaningful and impactful. 

Be Accessible

Faculty-student contact outside the classroom is the most important factor that increases a student’s sense of belonging, critical to student retention (Bowen, 2012). Your office hours are an easy means to fostering rich relationships with students, and a prime opportunity for additional learning experiences. Some considerations for making your office hours count:  

  • schedule them when your students are likely to need you rather than at times that are easiest for you. Virtual hours via Webex or Blackboard Collaborate can offer additional convenience. 

  • survey students to determine how their course schedules compare with your own obligations and put office hours where they help most (Carr, 2019) 

  • to further increase the likelihood that students will visit, gamify or incentivize student visits, require at least one visit, or make an office visit part of an assignment. Getting to know students as people and reaching out to individuals will really help “open the door.” 

  • be clear about when you are and aren’t available. 

  • consider using your syllabus to explain the purpose of office hours and offer suggestions to students about how best to use them.  

  • consider a rebranding! Rename your office hours, “student hours” “learning hours,” or “connection hours,” and don’t be surprised when you get more visitors! 

Engage Student Learning Outside the Classroom

A great deal of learning in college happens outside of the college classroom. Engage with your students in co-curricular and high impact practices beyond the classroom that will be invaluable to their overall collegiate experience: 

  • Move learning outside the classroom! 

    • Field trips (real or virtual) 

    • Have class outside 

    • Community engagement

    • Service learning

    • Experiential learning: Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching has an excellent guide for implementing experiential learning, Teaching Outside the Classroom.   

  • Advise Student Organizations

  • Encourage submissions to QUEST (the YSU Student Research Conference)  

  • Encourage or engage with Study Abroad   

  • Find encourage, or advise Internships   

  • Help students find On-Campus Employment   

  • Engage students in your own research, or help them find ways to publicize their own. Take students to academic conferences  

Be a Mentor!

Once again, consider your own experience. What one person had the most positive impact on you during your college experience? There’s a good chance it was someone you considered a mentor. There are ways to be that person for your students.

Get to know your students’ interests, goals, and expectations. Know them by name when possible. Here are some ways to get to know your students:  

  • Arrive to class early to greet and chat with students 

  • Consider ways to create a welcoming engaging and inclusive classroom 

  • Use paper or technology to create an Interest Inventory 

  • Ask about preferred name or pronoun, interests, goals for the course, career or life, hobbies, job or life responsibilities, challenges, etc.    

  • Share similar details about yourself (be vulnerable) 

  • let students see your enthusiasm and talk about why the course matters 

Mentor with care. Mentors engage in the following behaviors:

  • watching for opportunities to mentor students 
  • relationship building and staying in touch 
  • listening
  • offering help and guidance for individuals 
  • being a positive role model 
  • celebrating achievements of mentees 

It’s true that the mentorship experience is time-consuming, but time invested is highly rewarding to both parties, and can result in lifelong friendships. Your choices can truly change the lives of your students.