Converting One-Time Philosophy Students Into Repeat Enrollees

A philosophy professor writes:

Our department is thinking about ways we can convert students who take one class for accidental reasons (it fulfills a requirement or it fits a time slot) into students who take a few more classes. We’ve talked about a few strategies here, and I’ve looked around online a tiny bit for resources, but I thought this might be the sort of thing where collective wisdom could help.

It might be useful to note that the “accidental” reasons—fulfilling a requirement or fitting a time slot—could themselves be the product of intentional strategies by a department to increase enrollment by influencing what the course requirements are, offering courses that fulfill more university- or college-wide requirements, working with other units on campus (e.g., engineering) to get them to require courses the philosophy department could teach (e.g., engineering ethics, philosophy of technology, etc.), and scheduling classes at times that might appeal to certain students.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Sequence course offerings strategically, so professors can recommend to students who are doing well in a current course or finding it worthwhile a related course (or more advanced course on the same topic) being offered the very next term.
  2. Get to know your students so you can make course recommendations based on their interests. Some professors require their students to come by office hours at least once during the term. A conversation about their interests and related philosophy courses could be part of that meeting.
  3. Contact previous students next time you are teaching a course they might be interested in to encourage them to sign up for it.
  4. More generally, be proactive in praise and recommendations. Encouraging words from a professor can make a difference to what students end up studying.
  5. Offer benefits for taking a few philosophy courses: if students can take, say, three related philosophy courses and get some kind of official or quasi-official recognition for doing so (e.g., a “certificate in logic” or a “certificate in moral reasoning”) they might be more inclined to take the courses needed to do so.

Suggestions welcome.

Ellsworth Kelly, “Spectrum V”

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