January 29, 2013
Strategies for learning student name
UWF promotes itself as student-centered institution “where the buildings have numbers and the students have names.” Continued growth and larger class sizes create challenges to faculty who want to maintain this commitment to student engagement. Learning a student’s name makes that student feel valued. Small changes that improve the sense of community in a class can make a big difference for student engagement and learning
Barbara Millis collected strategies used by several colleagues to help them learn the names of their students and build a sense of rapport and community in their classes.
Seating charts: Divide and conquer
If your class is small enough, you can use a seating chart to help learn student names. Instructors can assign seats or make a chart based on seats that students select during the first week of class. Students are fairly territorial about their seats and sit in the same location all term when seats are not assigned. Divide your seating charts into blocks with no more than 6 students per block. Work on learning the names of the 6 students in one block during each class session. Make a point of visiting with the students in a new block during class. Once you learn the names of students in one block, include them in your visits with student in the next block to keep names you’ve learned fresh in memory. (Dee Fink)
Create an office hours visit assignment for your course
Require students to visit you during office hours during the first two or three weeks of the term, even if the visit is limited to only a few minutes. You might not learn all student names during these one-on-one visits, but an early break-the-ice visit ensures that students can locate your office and encourages them to arrange content-focused visits later in the term. This strategy is especially useful in classes with large first-year enrollments. Many first-year students are naïve about the expectations of academic life and are reluctant to intrude on faculty during their office hours. They may benefit from an extra push to engage in a one-on-one conversation with an instructor. (Gerry Wojnar)
Use student’s names when you talk to them, even if you have to ask their name first
We frequently recognize the names of our students when we see or hear their names. We might recognize many of our students’ faces, but have difficulty connecting names to faces. When a student visits your office or you see one of your students outside class, greet the student by name (if you know it), or ask “please remind me of your name” (if you don’t know it). When you use the student’s name, students love this confirmation that you know them. If you don’t know the student’s name, request it and use it during your conversation. You will show the student that you care enough to try to learn and use students’ names. Students appreciate your effort. Both strategies build rapport with students. (Susan Robison)
Ask students to make and use name tents during class
In smaller classes, you can ask students to print their name in large letters on name tents and place the name tents on their desk. You and other students can then read their names and associate names with faces. Make a point of using names when you call on students during class. Gradually, you will learn names and rely less on reading the names from the tents. (Kejing Liu & Susan Robison).
Use student photos in the ClassMate roster to associate names with faces
Print a copy of the roster with student photos and bring this to class during the first week and during exams. In the early weeks, you might use the roster to call on students and compare their appearance in class with the roster photo. Bring the roster to an early exam and see if you can match students in the class with their names by comparing their photo to their appearance that day. This also deters wandering eyes during the exam. (Susan Robison)
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Barbara Millis, Teaching and Learning Center, University of Texas at San Antonio (http://www.utsa.edu/tlc/).
WKU Writer’s Consortium
March 22, 2011
Improve classroom dynamics through inclusion: Use the Classmate photo roster to connect names with faces and call on students by name
Learning student names at the start of a new semester can be challenging. Many students decide to attend a regional comprehensive university like the University of West Florida rather than a large university because they expect that the smaller class sizes and lower student-faculty ratios at UWF will increase their ability to get to know and interact with faculty. They may be disappointed if they attend class regularly, participate occasionally, and find that their instructor still does not know their name. When faculty can recognize students and recall their names when calling on them during class or during out-of-class conversations, students feel a stronger sense of community and inclusion in the class. The classroom dynamic may also improve, fostering more frequent participation and student engagement.
The class rosters available through Classmate now include student photos. These photos can work as handy tools to aid instructors in learning and recalling student names. Learning the names of many students in a large enrollment class can be a daunting task. Make this task more manageable by creating small groups of students and learning the names of students in one group at a time. Usually one page from the Classmate roster prints approximately five or six student faces and names, which should be a manageable number for one day. Limit your study to one page of student photos on any given day.
Open one page of the roster at the lectern during class (or bring a printed copy of the page) and scan the audience as class discussion gets underway. Search for the faces of students in the group on your page and call on these students by name during class. At the end of the class, return to the photos in the roster and rehearse the faces and names of these students once more to reinforce your memory. Prior to the next class session, review these faces and names. Once you are familiar with the names and faces of students in this group, select a new page in the roster and focus on this new set of students during class. Gradually, you will be able to match the names and faces of a large number of your students.
Thanks to Michelle Hale Williams, Government & Political Science, University of West Florida, for this suggestion.
December 4, 2007
Students feel more engaged when faculty know students’ names, but learning the names of many students can be difficult.
Bring a digital camera to class at the start of the term and photograph students in groups of 3 or 4, holding a sheet of paper with their name. You can review these photos from time to time to connect names and faces.
Some students may object to being photographed. To avoid potential conflicts, explain to students that participation in this activity is entirely voluntary, the materials will only be used by you to help you learn their names, and photos will be destroyed at the end of the semester.
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