How To Get The Most From One-On-One Instruction
While this may not be an issue for those of you in junior high or high school, it can become more difficult to navigate once you go to college. We’re talking about limited one-on-one time with your teacher. Smaller schools pride themselves on the small student-to-teacher ratio. Ideally, if you have around 25:1 or 30:1, your experience won’t be much different from high school. However, at larger schools it can become more difficult to catch your professor’s attention. It’s not unusual to be a part of classes with 50, 75, or even 100 students. When this occurs, your professor’s time has a much greater demand for one-on-one instruction placed upon it, and it’s up to you to use that time wisely. That’s why we’ve put together a new tip sheet on how to get the most from one-on-one instruction. Let’s get started.
First, to make the most of your time with teacher, you have to make the most of your class time and studies.
Why is this so important? When you meet with your professor, it’s important to be prepared and respectful of the short amount of time that you have. You don’t go in and shoot the breeze, then hem and haw through a list of questions locked away in your brain. Instead you should be making the most of class time so you have a clear understanding of what you get and what you don’t. This means taking good notes, asking questions in class if there is something that escapes you, and studying enough to know what you DON’T know before scheduling an appointment.
Secondly, make a record of talking points.
To get the most out of one-on-one instruction time, you should do more than listen and take notes, you should also commit to the physical act of recording your talking points. If you were to get up in front of the class and give a five- to seven-minute speech, you wouldn’t just fly off the cuff with no idea ahead of time of what you are supposed to talk about — not if you’re serious about getting a good grade anyway. Treat your meeting with the professor in a like manner. The night before, or perhaps 30 minutes to an hour the day of, you should break out a sheet of paper and write down everything about the unit of study that you don’t understand. It might help to make three columns: the first column would be a list of the things you know with certainty; the second would be a list of things you feel reasonably comfortable with; and the third would be a list of the details and concepts that escape you. If you’ve been keeping up with class notes, homework, and independent study, it shouldn’t be hard to pinpoint your strengths, weaknesses, and uncertainties. Once you’ve made your columns, discount the things that you know with certainty. You won’t be needing one-on-one instruction for that. Now focus a little harder on the things that you’re reasonably comfortable with but where uncertainties still exist. Dig a little deeper to clarify the questions you plan to ask. From there, turn to your “don’t know” column and unpack those as much as you possibly can, as you did for the second column, forming actual questions to which you need answers.
Thirdly, prioritize your list.
A professor’s time is often limited, his schedule booked tight with classes, student meetings, and other professional responsibilities. He can’t afford to sit and shoot the breeze with you. Be prepared to cut out all small talk and have an “opening statement” that segues into what you really need help understanding. But before you do that, get to the heart of the matter by prioritizing your list of questions. This will require anticipating the information over which you’re likely to be tested. Find the balance between those items and the ones that you have the most difficulty understanding. Use this approach to highlight your most pressing questions and use an “inverted pyramid” style of interview, where you ask these questions first and continue to less pressing questions at the end. That way if you run out of time with one-on-one instruction, you’ll have a firmer grasp on your weakest areas. If there is enough time for the exam, try to schedule another appointment prior to test day.
Finally, consider recording your interaction with the professor.
Of course, you’ll want to let him know you’re recording ahead of time, but he’ll understand. Why would you want to do this? It’s not to catch your instructor in some lie that you can use to blackmail an A out of him. No, you’ll want to record because then you can go back to the recording for any pertinent pieces of conversation you may have missed. If you immediately go back to the recording when you get out of the one-on-one instruction time, you’ll stand a better chance of recognizing voice rhythms, and it will ultimately help you recall what you’ve just heard more quickly than if you let the recording sit for a few days. As you listen to your recording, make sure you’re taking notes on the conversation. While it’s not a deal breaker if you fail to record the one-on-one instruction time, it will make your life a lot easier, and since pretty much everyone has a voice recorder on their smartphones these days, it shouldn’t be very expensive to capture the audio.
One-on-one instruction time can be more valuable than gold in the life of a student. In fact, for some universities, it’s a major selling point to have a well-staffed program so you, the tuition payer, can have more of it. But the benefits are only as strong as your own willingness to participate in what is offered. That means being prepared to listen, to learn, and to ask questions. But don’t just walk in cold. Make sure that you’ve utilized class time and independent or group studies to the best of your abilities. Respect the teacher’s time by compiling a list of the most important questions the night before. Use technology to capture these interactions, and don’t be afraid to schedule more time as necessary.
What tips have helped you to get the most from your one-on-one instruction time? Share yours in our comments section below.