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Five tips for better communication with your professors

Posted by Trevecca News on Nov 18, 2015 2:54:46 PM

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As Trevecca’s student population grows, it is becoming more and more important for students to communicate with their professors well. The methods, timing and attitude students have when it comes to communication greatly affects how well professor and student interactions go.

Dr. Michael Jackson, associate professor of religion, and Dr. Michael Karounos, associate professor of English, offered their advice on the top five ways students can improve communication with their professors. (So, students, this is advice you can actually use!)

1. Take advantage of office hours.
Both professors noted that students often decide to talk to their professors right before or after class. While this might be OK for quick questions, students who need more help or a longer conversation should refrain from the pre- or post-class approach.

“One of the most difficult things about all the student communication, is when I have an 8 a.m. class and a 9 a.m. class, and a student is hoping to catch you in between,” says Jackson. “For students to come and get your input during that time can be very frustrating.”

Jackson suggested that students should check their syllabi for the professor’s office hours; they are almost always willing to meet with a student who’s in need of help.

“I stay around every day and I have office hours that are available to meet and consult with students if they are having struggles,” says Jackson.

2. Don’t wait until the last minute. 
“Don’t wait until it’s too late… asking for help in a timely fashion gives the professor time to respond to your situation,” says Karounos. “I have 106 students, in my case that makes it very difficult to respond to students at the last minute.”

Instead, he suggests that students start asking questions a week to a few days before an assignment is due.

3. Make sure your emails are clear.
Emails should be clear and concise, keeping in mind that professors get quite a few of them on a daily basis.

“One thing that would really be helpful is that if they would always, even in the subject line, say something about what class or section they’re in,” says Jackson. “Because sometimes it’s still scrambled in my brain who’s in which class.”

Keep in mind that many professors teach or advise more than 100 students. In order to respond as accurately as possible, your professor might need a reminder who you are and what class or section you’re in.

4. Be professional.
It is tempting to be very casual in an e-mail or letter to a professor, but these professors say students should think through the long-term patterns they are creating. 

“Stay professional because you are, after all, asking for help,” says Karounos. “It does cause me concern for the student that if they allow that habit of informal communication to carry over into formal letters and resumes. It’s going to hurt them in the future.” 

Bonus tips: Avoid using texting abbreviations and incomplete sentences. Always use punctuation.

5. When in doubt, ask questions.
“The faculty here wants to help students to succeed, and if they don’t understand something, they should take the time to ask us,” says Jackson.

Your professors don’t want students to be confused and don’t enjoy it when a student fails. So, take the time to get to know your professors, understand the material and ask questions as they come up.

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