As tough coursework begins to mount, some faculty college students will discover it difficult to give attention to far more than the content material in entrance of them. But to get essentially the most out of the undergraduate expertise, professors say college students ought to view going to class not simply as an educational pursuit but additionally as a strategy to forge lasting relationships, each with classmates and professors.
“From the professor’s standpoint, it is a relationship, it’s not just an assignment,” says Audrey Murrell, professor of enterprise administration, psychology and public and worldwide affairs on the University of Pittsburgh. “It’s a relationship where we’re investing in your personal and professional development.”
Those relationships can pay dividends long after graduation, but they start in those classroom moments. While learning the content is paramount, there are certain behaviors and habits that students can implement – or avoid – to strengthen their relationships with professors.
Here are eight ways professors say students can build positive rapport with their instructors and make the most of their college experience.
Practice Good Communication
The key to building any lasting relationship is good communication. Students should make an effort to get to know their professor and allow their professor to know about them. This doesn’t mean students have to share their whole life story, says Sarah Niebler, associate professor of political science at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, “but being authentic and letting professors know what’s going on in their lives is helpful.” That’s especially true if there’s something health or family related happening that could keep them out of class for a while.
“That happens to all of us,” she says. “That’s life. I always hate to see students disappear because they feel like they can’t tell me they’re struggling with something that’s bigger than what’s going on in the classroom.”
That also means being willing to ask for help when needed, Murrell says.
“If there’s one thing that we learned coming through the pandemic is that we’ve got to be much more comfortable with saying, ‘Look, I need some help.'” she says. “To me, it’s a sign that the student trusts me and trusts the university, that we’re going to hear them and that we’re going to support them, that there’s no shame.”
Attend Office Hours
One of the best ways for students to get to know their professors is to attend their office hours – time blocks that they set aside specifically to meet with students. If those times don’t work for students, they should contact their professor via email or in class to set up an alternate time to meet. Students can use these times to ask questions about assignments or content, or just to talk with their professor.
“I think trying to get individual time with your professor can help the professor get to know you a little bit better and understand why you’re struggling,” says Cathy Wineinger, assistant professor of political science at Western Washington University. “Then they can get you the help that you need.”
Maintain Positive Body Language
A student’s body language can communicate quite a bit about their level of engagement in class. Professors will notice students who are yawning, looking bored and not maintaining eye contact. Students should focus on being mentally present in the class they’re in, not distracted by assignments from another class or by their devices. Technology use can also distract others in the class, professors say.
“Not only do you want them to be paying attention for their own benefit to understand the material and do well, but it is nice to see that something you’ve worked hard on, like collaboration or a lecture, is being appreciated,” says Elliott Fullmer, associate professor of political science at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. “We’re all human and I think that validation is nice to see.”
Ask Questions During Lectures
To Fullmer’s point, professors spend significant time preparing lessons, and they don’t want to just talk to the back wall when instructing. They want students to engage with the content. Students might be apprehensive about asking questions early in their college career, Murrell says, thinking it might signal they don’t understand the material. It actually signals a higher level of engagement, she says, and might spark further conversations outside of class.
Asking questions is a way for students to develop their understanding, and “it’s also feedback to me as a professor about what things I can help to clarify,” Murrell says. “It’s a way for me to understand, ‘Am I being clear?’ And if nobody asks questions, I’m assuming that everything is clear and it may not be.”
Connect Class Material to Other Experiences
While college students ought to keep away from doing their math homework in English class, professors do get pleasure from when college students can join materials to different courses or different life experiences. That demonstrates a deeper degree of understanding, Niebler says.
If college students labored an internship, or their dad and mom work in an identical discipline, Murrell says, it’s good to see college students make connections in these areas as properly. Some college students really feel like professors don’t wish to hear private anecdotes, she says, however that’s removed from the reality.
“I want to hear that what we’re talking about is relevant to you and that you can make connections outside of the examples that I give,” she says. “That relevance means it sticks.”
Follow Course Procedures
At the beginning of every semester, most professors give college students a syllabus – a doc that lays out due dates, classroom procedures and different insurance policies associated to the category. If college students have questions on assignments or due dates, Fullmer suggests they reread the syllabus earlier than reaching out to the professor.
For instance, if a scholar has to overlook class, the coverage on easy methods to deal with that together with the content material they’re going to miss is probably going on the syllabus.
“Rather than have to write that message every time someone’s ill or has to miss class, it’s nice if people just know the process,” Fullmer says.
Part of being scholar is following primary instructions, finishing work on time and exhibiting respect to professors and classmates. That means being keen to take duty for private actions as an alternative of blaming others, says Melanie Wilderman, affiliate professor of journalism on the University of Oklahoma.
If college students take duty and talk with professors after they’re overwhelmed, do not perceive one thing or get behind on an project, Wilderman says she’s more likely to work with them and prolong a deadline. “Blaming other people really gets to me,” she says. “I expect you to make mistakes, I expect myself to make mistakes. Owning up to that is a huge part of maturity.”
Be Willing to Try New Things
Professors are typically troubleshooting or testing out new concepts for instruction. That could possibly be a simulation, class debate or a brand new format of a collaborative dialogue. Whatever it’s, college students needs to be open-minded about new modes of supply or new actions within the classroom.
“It’s actually useful when college students purchase into it a little bit bit and are keen to truly have interaction in actions that they initially may discover boring or foolish,” Wineinger says.