By Collin Regan – Contributing Writer
A crowd of UMF faculty, students, and community members recently packed Emery Arts Center to listen to professor Rhonda Jamison’s talk about Teacher-Student Relationships.
Jamison, also known as Dr. J around campus, talked about three studies she did, including one on UMF students and the impact of mandatory office hours.
During the 2015-2016 school year, Jamison wanted to see how the relationship between her students and herself impacted the classroom environment. To do this, Jamison conducted an experiment between three of her Child and Adolescent Development classes (PSY 225). In one of her classes, Jamison required two mandatory fifteen minute office hours during the semester, one class had one set of mandatory office hours, and the other had no mandatory office hours.
“The goal of the office hours was to get to know students as individuals,” said Jamison. “This was one avenue for connecting with students outside of the classroom, where I could get to know each student as an individual.” Jamison had a theory that when she got to know students as individuals, they would do better in the classroom.
Lydia McDonald, a junior Elementary Education major, remembers having two required office hours over the course of her second semester of freshman year.
“I really enjoyed going to visit with her and chat. It made me feel very comfortable around her and in class,” said McDonald. “I felt pretty neutral about office hours before this, but now I think they’re great.”
During the office hours, students would have a conversation with Jamison. Sometimes, Jamison used conversation starter questions found online to ignite conversation. “I always made sure that I answered the questions too, so that I got to know them, and they got to know me,” said Jamison. Office hours took place in the second and third weeks of the course, right after students had taken a survey.
Over the course of the 2015-2016 year, Jamison gave the same survey to 159 students who had either one, two or no mandatory office hours. This survey was given once at the beginning of the semester before the office hours and once again at the end of the semester. The results showed that students who came to office hours–whether it was once or twice–showed a significant increase in perceptions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness to concepts in the class.
While Jamison was most interested in the findings of a teacher-student relationship, she was surprised that the experiment showed an increase in autonomy and mastery or competence in the class.
“I didn’t know that coming to office hours for fifteen minutes would change how students felt about the content in the course so dramatically,” said Jamison. Having a relationship with students outside of the classroom improved the content knowledge, confidence, and participation from students in the class.
Daniel Picard, a junior Secondary Education major, remembers his experience in PSY 225. “I remember the class having a lot of participation, more than most of my other classes I’ve had at UMF,” he said. Picard was a member of a class that had one mandatory office hours.
Jamison also made an impact on some future educator’s careers in the process of this study. “One great way to learn how to be a great teacher is by observing great teachers,” said McDonald “Dr. J is definitely one of the professors I enjoyed watching teach because her way of handling the class is excellent.”
Jamison will soon be presenting her research and results at a national level. In January of 2018 Jamison will explain her findings at a conference for the National Institute for the Teaching of Psychology (NITOP).
“This conference is different because everyone is presenting on teaching psychology, which everyone in the room does,” said Jamison. “I’ll be in a room of people where everyone does it, which is pretty cool.”