The chance to get to know your students better.

The chance to get to know your students better.

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The chance to get to know your students better.

A lot of teachers spend the first class meeting explaining the course in general and outlining its requirements. After answering questions about the course, they either start lecturing or leave the class early. However, there are a lot of things you can do on the first day that will help you get to know the students, get them ready for the work that will be done during the semester, and get them excited about the subject matter of the course. On the first day of class, undergraduates want to know two kinds of information, according to surveys. They want to learn as much as they can about the course’s nature and scope so they can decide whether they want to stay in it or better anticipate the semester’s work requirements. Additionally, they are interested in the teacher as a person. They want to know if you will be fair and reasonable with them, care about them as individuals, and care about the course itself.

Because it demonstrates that the instructor cares about the course and has made an effort to carefully plan it, distributing a well-written syllabus to students in the first class can significantly contribute to the development of a positive attitude among them. The course objectives, topics, grading and exam procedures, reading assignments, attendance policy, office location, and appointment times should all be included in a syllabus. When you create a comprehensive syllabus, reviewing the course requirements on the first day becomes easier. In addition, students who enroll late will have access to all essential course materials.

The chance to get to know your students better.

Students, especially those in large classes, want to feel like people and not just a name and ID number on a registration roll. Studies on course evaluations have demonstrated a strong link between students’ perceptions of the instructor’s personal care and their positive evaluations of the instructor. In addition, the same body of research indicates that students are motivated to work harder and accomplish more when they have a positive attitude toward the instructor and the course. Therefore, there are good reasons to demonstrate to students right from the start that you care about them and view them as individuals.

There are additional reasons to learn students’ names besides the ones already mentioned. Your capacity to address them by name contributes to the relaxed and friendly atmosphere in the classroom. By asking students one-on-one to share their perspectives, you can pique student interest and start a lively class discussion. Additionally, it has the potential to transform a group of individuals who remain anonymous and isolated into a community of individuals who collaborate in the pursuit of knowledge and ideas.

Learning student names may not be difficult in small classes. If your class has fewer than twenty students, you might ask them to identify themselves one row at a time and then repeat what they’ve said. Call the roll at the beginning of each class using the preregistration list. Spend the first and subsequent days reading the names on the index cards, looking at each person, and attempting to make connections between names and hometowns, facial expressions, hair color, or any other striking characteristics after collecting the cards. In classes with relatively few students, each of these strategies works well, but they all have one drawback: They take up time in class that could be used for other things. In courses with a lot of students, some faculty members have found ways to get around these drawbacks.

In large classes, ask students to send you photos of themselves labeled with their names by the second week of class. You should look over these pictures as soon as you get them and as often as you can until you know what their names are. You will soon be able to identify each and every student in your class. At the end of the semester, you should return the photos to the students so that they can be given to other teachers who use this method. Regardless of class size, if you have a seating chart and photos, you can learn who your students are in less time. An additional advantage may result from this approach: You will likely be notified if a student misses multiple classes, and you can get in touch with the student to talk about the issue. You demonstrate that you care about the student as an individual by reaching out in this manner.

Give each student an index card on the first day of class and ask them to write down their names, local addresses, phone numbers, hometowns, and majors on it. The next step is to ask them to write about why they are interested in your course as well as other courses or life experiences that are related to the material covered in the class. You could also ask them about their heroes and heroines, their favorite pastimes, and special skills or abilities. You should emphasize that students are not required to reveal anything they do not feel comfortable sharing when you ask for personal information. Once you have gathered these index cards, you can use them for a variety of purposes, including gaining an understanding of the students’ interests and prior knowledge. You can improve your perception of the material with this information so that you don’t bore the more knowledgeable students or completely confuse or lose the less knowledgeable ones in the class.

An ungraded short essay that is written on the first day of class is another strategy that may be beneficial to both you and your students. Short essays can reveal a lot about a student’s perception, knowledge, and attitudes about a subject, as well as their analytical and conceptual skills and general writing ability, if they are well-conceived. Show a slide of a lesser-known work and ask students to identify and describe the work’s style, symbolism, and period if you are teaching art history. Ask students to write about what they think and believe about a foreign country if you’re teaching about it. You can learn a lot about students’ preconceptions, attitudes, and prior knowledge about the material by reading their essays. You can also identify themes that you might want to emphasize in your teaching. Return the first essay to them after they have finished it and ask them to compare their two responses. This will provide them with tangible proof of how the semester’s work may or may not have altered their thinking. You can collect the papers yourself and compare them to see how much your class helped your students develop intellectually.

Another approach you can take to gauge students’ knowledge, perceptions, and concepts regarding the course is to create and administer a diagnostic test that does not have a grade attached to it. It will be simpler for you to concentrate on what you need to teach your students if you have a better understanding of their knowledge or understanding of the material. You and the students can compare their knowledge at the beginning and end of the course by using many of the diagnostic exam’s questions as midterm and final exam questions. You will have a basis for determining the amount of benefit each student received from taking the course.

The preceding advice is intended to assist you in learning as much as possible about your students. Students appreciate knowing more about you than is listed on the course syllabus (name, office location, office hours, and telephone number), just as you have good reasons to want to know more about your students. You can overcome the classroom hierarchy that prevents communication between you and your students by being willing to reveal something about yourself. The first day of class is a good time to talk about your personal or professional life to the students. In the context of the relationship between the teacher and the student, each teacher must determine what self-revelations are appropriate and pertinent; however, some topics, such as your educational background and research interests, are relatively safe and simple to discuss. There are other ways to convey the same information if you do not feel comfortable talking about yourself in class. You could send out a personal resume or CV that is shorter.

Giving students a sample of the material covered in the course is one way to show them what to expect. A fifteen-minute video that introduces his subject is shown by a professor of the natural sciences. He reports that students come to the second class eager to begin learning more because the film is colorful, exciting, and motivating. Students in a course in the social sciences are encouraged to consider the questions they want the class to answer for them.

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