Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Impacting Students for a Lifetime - Part 2

Continued blog post series by Sally Heilstedt, Associate Dean of Instruction - Engagement and Learning at LWIT 

Interact with Students By Name

The first of the 4 Connections is simple but for many, not easy: Learn your students' names and begin using them on the first day of class and throughout the quarter.

I have the very good fortune of having an excellent memory, if I see names written down and associate them with faces. I relied on that ability a lot as an instructor and felt pretty good about myself when I knew and could use all of my students’ names after the first day of classes. It wasn’t until my second or third quarter of teaching that I realized something was amiss. I assigned students to in-class groups about three weeks into the quarter, and it became very apparent from the “hey, yous” and “you theres” that the students did not know each other’s names. Even if you are great at learning and using your students’ names, there is still room to improve the practice of the first Connection.

What follows are a few practices faculty have adopted to better memorize and/or utilize students’ names and to help students get to know one another:

  • Name Plates - Provide printer paper or cut-up old file folders and have students create name plates to stand up on their desks. Collect them and pass them out each class session for the first few weeks as a self-assessment of your learning of their names.
  • Introduction - After I discovered that students did not know their classmates’ names – and realized I has failed to give them that learning opportunity – I began a new practice in my face-to-face classes. On the first day of class, I asked everyone to share their names and one activity each that they enjoy doing. On the second day of class, I asked them to do the same (but to share a different activity). On the third day of class, they once again shared their names and this time, an accomplishment of which they are proud. I noted all of their responses on my attendance sheet and used them throughout the quarter to design examples and content, create teams, emphasize successes, encourage transfer of skills, etc.

    In the online environment, create a discussion forum where students are asked to introduce themselves and reply to each other (at least two to three other students). Provide introductory questions that connect to your course content or are simple like those described in the face-to-face activity above. Take the time to reply to each of the students, too.
  • Canvas Profiles - Ask students to add a photo and short bio to their Canvas account under Profile. Be sure to do the same. Note: Due to safety reasons, you may have students who do not feel comfortable participating in this option or are unable to post personal information to Canvas.

During any of these activities, encourage students to use their preferred names and note those on your attendance sheet or roster. As someone who went by a name other than what I had to use to register, I deeply appreciated when an instructor knew and used the name with the most meaning to me. Names carry such weight in our sense of value, belonging, and self. Learning and using your students' names communicates that you value them, that they belong, and that they can be themselves in the classroom community.

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