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This autumn weather is really beautiful; often it’s just too good to be indoors. This post from the Innovative Instructor blog describes the idea of walking office hours.

Fiona Rawle-Close describes how she does it and the benefits she’s observed:

I suggest you post walking office hours at the start of the term, and send email reminders the day before. Also, post a map of the route and where students can join the route. I find it works best to have a ∼15-minute circular route, and to pass by the “pick-up point” multiple times in case students want to join your office hours at different time points. (For example, students could join at 10:00, 10:15, or 10:30.) The “pick-up point” should be a central hub, such as near the library or the main instructional building. The students can also walk in the opposite direction of the route in order to intercept you. This is another reason to have the route and direction posted clearly on the course management website. I have found that these walking office hours work well for both bigger (15+) and smaller (∼4) groups. For the bigger groups, everyone walks in twos, and I go through the middle, dropping back now and then, making sure I walk beside everyone for a bit. The bonus of this approach is that students start to talk to one another. With traditional office hours, when students were outside of my office, they would usually be rather quiet, or listening intently to the person in my office (I asked why they did this, and they told me that it was because they didn’t want to miss out on any advice). It’s also important to check the weather the morning of walking office hours, and email out cancellations as necessary.

Benefits: From a professor’s perspective, I immediately saw a benefit in terms of the types of conversations I was having with my students, and the walking office hours definitely led to more meaningful discussions. Importantly, I felt that on these walks, I was able to be a better listener to my students as I didn’t have the distractions (such as a computer, phone or hallway noise) that I may have had in my office. Also, from a personal perspective, I saw an improvement in my own mood and well-being through being more active in the outdoors with less time spent sitting at my desk. There have been many recent medical reports on how “sitting is the new smoking,” and the fact that these walking office hours have me walking on campus at least three times a week is a significant health benefit. My anecdotal impression for students is that they enjoy the extra one-on-one (or close-to-one-on-one) time. There has also been more meaningful discussion about career opportunities or research placements, or history of the subject we are talking about, and several students have applied for research positions because of these walks. At the end of the term, students have sought me out to tell me how much they appreciated the walks.

Interestingly, I found that students would come to traditional office hours and walking office hours for different reasons. The walking office hour students asked questions about my research, my experience as a student, sought out advice for personal matters, or just wanted to chat about current events. During my walking office hours, students would rarely ask questions about test or exam marks or even about course content.

Some of you probably already have walking meetings. I’d love to hear how you might already be using this practice.

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