Context: I am an assistant professor of mathematics at a small liberal arts college in the US.
I hold a scheduled office hour every weekday, plus additional hours near exams. Office hours are a significant part of my institution's culture, and they are regularly used by our students. As such, it is not uncommon for multiple students with entirely different questions to visit at the same time.
I am somewhat unsure about how I should handle this. If they all have the same question, I can easily work with a small group simultaneously on the white board in my office. Otherwise, I can only think of the following options:
- Work with students on a first-come, first-serve basis. Move to the second student once finished with the first, then to the third after the second, etc.
- Work with students on a first-come, first-serve basis, but only give each student 10-15 minutes before I move to the next one.
- Rotate between students, answering a few minutes worth of questions before going to the next student, and eventually circling back.
- Tell students that if they want to meet for more than 15 minutes they must make an appointment outside office hours.
Our department has several tables in the hallway, so I usually go with option 3. That said, this method seems inefficient for the students and can be exhausting for me, so I am wondering if I can do any better. Most of my own undergraduate professors used option 1, but I really disliked how a single student could consume nearly all of their time.