This course policy has been highly effective in increasing student autonomy and empowering students to take responsibility for their own learning. It has decreased the number of emails or office hour pop-ins about small tasks and increased the hours I spend with students in more meaningful conversations. It is particularly useful in introductory-level courses. Below is the statement presented on my syllabus and discussed with students on Day 1 as well as after the mid-term point of the semester (or as needed).
Personal Responsibility & Self-Sufficiency
Students are expected to take personal responsibility for their academic and course-related conduct. Students should make themselves aware of all course deadlines and requirements, and are expected to adhere closely to all of the course requirements. Students should become familiar with the material contained in the course syllabus and use this document to obtain answers to basic course-related questions. Everyone needs help at some point (and typically at multiple points) in their academic journey. When you do, there are many campus resources (besides me) that can help. I expect that students have tried to answer some of their own questions by using the resources provided on this syllabus or throughout campus. Students are welcome to office hours if they have course content, assignment questions, or larger academic and career questions that could not be answered, but I will expect that students have first tried to figure things out (FIO).
When students arrive at office hours, I will ask them what three ways/ strategies/ approaches they took to figure out their own questions before coming to office hours. This helps me to then guide the conversation and move their progress in the course or on an assignment forward in a more efficient way. I have found that since implementing this policy, students have more ownership over their work in my courses.
On November 12, 2019 Muhlenberg colleagues gathered to share their teaching hacks. Teaching hacks are relatively simple strategies that we might use to improve student learning or reduce our workload. These strategies might free up additional class time, increase the efficiency of our practices, or better support our ability to work on scholarship or service.