Remember the Name

We have passed the census date and the students who are in your class are likely staying there. Do you know who they are? 

No judgment here, I have never been great at remembering student names and when we returned to teaching in person after, I discovered what little talent I had for remembering names was significantly diminished. It can also be intimidating if you see a name you don’t know how to pronounce and reverting to a pronoun or calling on a student by pointing can be less intimidating. 

Hard as it may be, this is one of the most critical steps you can take toward building an inclusive classroom. There is an excellent guide from the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning from Yale where the center highlights the importance of correct names and pronouns for inclusion and respect. I want to highlight just two of the techniques we have previously featured when covering this topic

  • A 2014 tip from Kate McCarthy: “Ask them to use their name each time they speak in class, and repeat their names in your responses.”
  • Adapted from a 2019 tip by Josh Trout: Use the Portal Roster function or now the Canvas “People” tab to associate names with photos. Be sure to upload your own photo to Canvas to model the behavior you want to encourage. 

This is not the first time the Tuesday Teaching Tip has focused on remembering and using student names. I counted seven instances in our archive. It keeps coming up because it is so critical in fostering a sense of belonging in the classroom. I selected this tip for the week because of the timeliness with the census, but also because in a period of rapid change–this remains the same. You don’t need to be an artificial intelligence expert or a whiz at Canvas to get a little better at teaching. Little things like remembering names can have a big impact.

Zach Justus
Interim Director of Faculty Development
Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences

It’s week two; do you know all your students’ names yet?

Knowing and using students’ names in the classroom is a fundamental way to build a community of engaged learners; there’s something very powerful in the connection created by being addressed by name. But learning all our students’ names is one of the most challenging tasks for us as teachers, made more difficult by ever-increasing class sizes (and, for some of us, by our ever-increasing age).  I have a colleague who managed to do it with a class of over 100 students by the end of week two.  While most of us will remain humbled by his prowess, here are some ideas for learning student names relatively quickly:

  • Ask them to use their name each time they speak in class, and repeat their names in your responses.
  • Have students create name tags or tent cards. You can hand these out at the beginning of each class period, reinforcing your retention by calling their names. (This also doubles as an attendance-taking device—the cards left in your hand are absentees.)
  • Use photos. Use the photos in the online roster, or have students bring in a photo on a 3’x 5’ index card, on which they can also write information that will help you remember them, or take a photo of student groups if they will be in semester long cohorts. Write names above each face in the group photos and pin them up in your office for frequent reference.
  • Break it down. Have students sit in the same seats day to day, and learn one quadrant of the room per week.
  • Make a commitment to learning their names, and work at it, using whatever techniques work for you.

More ideas for learning names can be found here, and more still in some of the teaching resource books here in MLIB 458.

And as a reminder, there’s still time to register for TODAY’S CELT WORKSHOP:

“Building Traditional Assessments (live or online): A QOLT-Friendly Approach”

Presented by Ben Seipel, 3-5 pm in MLIB 002 TLP Training Lab

Description: Maybe you have never been trained professionally to write quizzes, exams, or other types of assessments. Or perhaps you just want to see what other formats, configurations, and approaches exist. Possibly you want some guidance on transferring your face-to-face assessments into the Blackboard Learn platform. If any of these resonate, then this hands-on workshop is for you! Bring a sample assessment with you.

*Authored by Dr. Katherine McCarthy.