Do college professors or TAs really want students to visit them during office hours?

When I was in college, I was always nervous about visiting my teachers during office hours. I wonder how professors and TA’s view their office hours. Do you actually want students to show up?

I want my students to show up, but I wish more of them wanted to show to have me clarify what I said (or didn’t say) in class. Those who do show up want to argue about their grades, or to explain why they’ve missed the past 14 classes and I shouldn’t count that against them or to ask which extra credit assignment I can devise so they don’t get penalized for missing the midterm, the final and all the term’s quizzes.

Yes! It’s a rare chance to talk one-on-one and find out what the student is not understanding, and why, and how to improve. If one student is having troubles, others are likely to have the same troubles. Not all TAs/profs feel that way, but I like to think I did. If there are no questions everything seems fine, even when it isn’t fine.

Lucky for me the student who showed at my office up on her way to field practice WITH A JAVELIN had easy questions and did not have a beef with me.

Agree with pseudo ruber, but generally, yes. You can’t really do anything important during office hours, except grab a cup of coffee and flip through the latest journals, check your mail, and gab with whoever else is around in the hallways. Might as well talk with people, especially students. Legitimate concerns might be asking for a recommendation, in addition to general clarification or help with on-campus resources. Or, hell, even just to chat about topics related to academia can sometimes be a nice break, even if the topic is only somewhat related to coursework.

I think what PRR is complaining about are more the general annoyances – students only care about some amazing formula that will let them stay on their swim team one more semester while missing 6 classes per semester and doing no assignments.

I liked it when I was a TA. Teaching was the thing that I liked the most about grad school.

Generally agree with the others.

I considered students coming by an important source of feedback in how things were going in the class. It also helped a lot in the social dynamics of the class. Students got to know me and understand where I was coming from. (Even a Computer Science prof. can appear too geeky to Computer Science students.)

I regularly pointed out to students that I didn’t consider someone coming by for help a bad thing, in fact it is a good thing. It means the student is putting in the extra effort to learn.

I also let it be known that I couldn’t write a decent letter of recommendation for a student I didn’t know. If all I knew about a student was their entry in the grade book, the letter of recommendation would be noticeably incomplete and would not really help them.

OTOH, I knew profs. who made it clear on Day One that students were to see the TA only about any and all matters regarding the class. They would have office hours listed if they hadn’t got tenure yet but were only posted for show.

Yes. A large part of what makes teaching interesting is interacting with the students one on one or in small groups. Lecturing isn’t really all that exciting. It’s also a really valuable source of feedback, as has been mentioned.

My wife’s a professor at UCLA. She absolutely wants people to show up for her office hours. That said, she much prefers students who come to ask interesting questions about the material.

Yes. Otherwise you just sit there.

I was a TA - it’s really boring.
Besides it’s nice to have someone who’s frustrated come into you office and be able so say “gimme 10 minutes and you’ll get this - I swear.”
I think we all (well most of us) enjoy helping people.

Sure. Otherwise I don’t have anything to do except read the SDMB. (I especially wish students who feel like they don’t understand an assignment or something we’re reading would show up for office hours, because it drives me crazy when they come to class and say “Uh, I didn’t understand this,” having made no prior effort to come to office hours and ask questions. But showing up just to chat is OK, too, as long as no one with an urgent question is waiting.)

Besides who are we gonna have sex with if no students show up.

I’ve had teachers pretty much beg us to come to their 2-3 office hours a week. “Seriously, it’s lonely, I can’t do anything or go anywhere. Even if you want to chat about the latest webcomic, please!”

I don’t think my students like my office hours. First of all, someone only comes once every three weeks or so, when I see students go see others in the department all the time, and they’re there for quite a while. When the students come see me, they’re usually in and out in ten minutes. It makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong, but I have no idea what it is. No one has ever said anything on any evaluation, like that I’m inaccessible or intimidating or whatever. And I know that I’m not so good a teacher that no one has any reason to come.

But yes, I like the students to come who come because they need help and who have looked at the material enough to articulate an answerable question.

Although, maybe I do intimidate people. I always answer grade questions by opening up the grade book and asking the students where my mistake is. On the other hand, I allow people to make up any work until the next to last week of term, because I really don’t care when I grade things. So who knows?

That would intimidate me.

Being adjunct, I have no office but I do have virtual office hours conducted via email, mostly. I can see students before and after class in person, too, and could talk to them on the phone–but that is becoming rare.

Yes, we really do. I teach Math, and I’ve never met another Math prof who doesn’t want their students to come to office hours if they need help.

The profs I have visited have all been willing to talk to me, but never happy to. Our stats professor often said for people to come by during office hours, so he might have been an exception (I never visited him).

Meh. Better than the guy I had who would give you a lecture for even asking to make sure his grade was correct.

To answer the OP: I’ve never had a teacher who minded, as long as you weren’t being an asshole when you did it.

Though there were a few teachers I avoided because they were horribly intimidating–mostly because the only time they would even acknowledge my existence was when I was doing something wrong.

Here’s something I’ve been wondering lately, when a huge paper is due on the last day of class does anyone actually read it?