Don’t Knock It

IMG_0200[1]One thing I’ve noticed in the School here at Brookes, is the differing extent to which staff doors are open or shut during working hours.

And, over the past few weeks, I’ve met several approaches to having an open office door. One lecturer, at a recent event said that she and her colleagues persistently work at home wherever possible, to prevent students from being able to knock at their doors and interrupt them. Another lecturer says that he has his office door more often open than his colleagues – and seems to be viewed as more approachable than they are, as a result.

That, in itself, isn’t surprising. Research shows that students are less likely to approach a lecturer who has a closed, versus an open, office door (Nichols, Wobbrock, Gergle & Forlizzi, 2002).

Bearing this in mind, and notwithstanding certain periods of the day when the noise outside makes it unfeasible to have the door open, I have tried my best to make myself available to my students.  Nevertheless, my appointments diary for this week looks like this:

apptsweek5And, having been encouraged in reflective practice, I’m wondering, in a week with two first year undergraduate deadlines, why this was the case. They’ve all met me.  Do I come across as unapproachable? Studies (e.g., Grayson, Clarke, & Miller, 2006) suggest that students want help from lecturers while they’re at university – do I need to work on my openness to them?  If rapport is also important (see Heffernan, Morrison, Sweeney, &  Jarratt, 2010) am I just expecting too much, too soon?

Or am I out of step with the times? Did the students have no problems with their assignments that couldn’t be solved online? Or is this a problem that is more endemic among lecturers – do most students feel unable to approach a lecturer face-to-face for academic help, unless the contact is a course requirement? What motivates lecturers to leaving the door open or shut? Experiences and comments welcome.



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