Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Managing meeting no-shows

All my supervisees get an appointment set for the duration of their enrolment. I cluster all my supervisees' appointments into blocks, so I do nothing else but see students in those blocks of time. I find this makes me more efficient, and makes the time together with supervisees more effective. 

I got asked by a colleague about strategies to manage supervisees who miss their scheduled appointments and either: wander in at their leisure and expect a meeting; or - worse, email after the fact and ask to be rescheduled, without explanation or apology.

When things are quiet - rare in academia - this is not such a problem. However, when students and lecturers are under pressure as we get to the pointy end of courses, this becomes yet another thing for lecturers to manage. 

An important thing to remember is to try to respect the supervisee's time. I try to be on time for meetings. I let supervisees know early if I can't make our meeting time, and offer rescheduling times. I explain that I am teaching other papers, and have schedules, delivery, meetings and marking to get through for my other papers as well, and that I am not on campus every day, and also need time for my research. Because I let supervisees know that my time is full, and I do my best to respect their time, we build a culture of respect quite quickly. 

Supervisor meetings need to have importance. The time together needs to be a privilege, not a chore. For good supervisees who want to learn, this is easy. For those who are aiming for a simple pass, this can become hard work. There are always some people to whom you have to spell out respect and privilege to directly, as they do not pick up these nuances.

Another important aspect to manage is expectations. When I have students who don't turn up - and recently I had three new supervisees in one day who didn't turn up, without explanation - I send out a screenshot of my calendar to all my supervisees for that day in an email: asking them to let me know if they can't make their appointments, so I can go and do something else in that time. I remind them to respect my time. Sometimes the no-shows happen because supervisees aren't familiar with the appointment technology, so don't realise that their appointment repeats every one or two weeks (depending on enrolment). The reminder email gets around that problem. 

Supervisees who are late to their time-slot, if I am waiting for another student at the time, I may see briefly. But when my scheduled student arrives, I tell the late supervisee to email me with anything else they want to know and that I will see them at their next appointment.

If supervisees are late - ie, drifting in without a reason or apology - and I have another student, I will tell them that they have missed their appointment and that I can't see them until our next scheduled time. 

If they miss an appointment with a reason, I usually tell them I will see them next week and to email me in between time. Sometimes I will suggest a Skype or a Zoom meeting in the evening, where supervisees have a very good reason for not being able to attend.

I have another colleague who puts on headphones in our shared office space as a signal for "leave me alone; I am working".  We have discussed that as a group, and respect the signal. Shutting - or locking - the office door, or putting a sign on the outside door with "Meeting in Progress" on it, flags that other work is in progress.

Do you have any other ideas or feedback? What do you do? 


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