How to Talk to Faculty members

Our small class sizes are ideal for faculty and student interaction. We realize, though, that talking with a faculty member can be a bit intimidating. The guidelines below appeared in a National On-Campus Report article called "Helping New Students Make the Most of Meetings With Faculty" (1993). We hope you find the information helpful.

Step 1: Make an appointment.

  • Review the syllabus, or ask, for your instructor's office hours. Go to his or her office during those hours.
  • If your schedule conflicts with the office hours, tell your instructor why you can't make the scheduled office hours. Then tell him/her about your specific concern.
  • Set up a specific time to meet with your instructor. Be sure to indicate the amount of time you think you'll need.

Step 2: Establish rapport.

Be on time for your appointment. When you arrive, be pleasant, smile, introduce yourself again (include your name and class), and shake hands if appropriate.

Step 3: Present your concern.

Focus on the specific questions you've identified as problematic. Have your question(s) or problem(s) written out so that the instructor can see where your difficulties are.

Step 4: Provide background information.

Briefly tell your instructor about your high school background and preparation for the course--if relevant to solving the problem and explain the study strategies you've used to understand the material.

Step 5: Redirect for clarification.

If the instructor's explanation isn't clear, redirect his/her attention to the specific point where you became confused. Talk through your problem so that the instructor hears your reasoning.

Step 6: Summarize resolution of the problem.

"I was missing this step in . . . I need to apply this formula . . ."

Step 7: Thank your instructor.

And ask to come back if necessary.