LEARNING THE STUDENTS' NAMES: DOES IT MATTER?
IT University of Copenhagen (DENMARK)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Conference name: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 17-19 November, 2014
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:A key factor in successful university courses is the relationship between the students and the teacher. Hence one of Ramsden's (2003) principles on good teaching reads "Show concern and respect for the students" while Kember & McNaught (2007) suggest treating the students as individuals. One simple measure is learning the students' names. Many sources suggest procedures for this, e.g., Svinicki and McKeachie (2011).
In spite of these laudable suggestions, it seems that in most university courses the teachers only learn the names of a handful of the most active students. And the literature does not seem to report any studies of effects of learning the students' names.
Against this background, I have developed a method to learn the names of all students and conducted a study of the effect. The method consists of seven steps:
1. Make a list of the students' names, write the names in columns, and note patterns.
2. Drill recall by repeatedly writing the names on blank sheets of paper.
3. In the first class create ownership among the students by motivation the idea.
4. Take photos of the students and create a photo gallery
5. Publicize the photo gallery for the students.
6. Print the photos and drill the names until a desired level of proficiency is reached.
7. In teaching insist on stating the name of the students whenever they want to speak out.
This method can be supported by many pedagogical theories, but suffice it to mention one: The authentic teacher (Cranton 2001) where some key features are:
• Make your visions explicit: I publicize my intention to learn all the names.
• Demonstrate that you take the students seriously: I show respect for the students as individuals.
• Avoid having favourites among the students: I learn the names of all the students.
In my experience the method has an effect as it enhances the learning environment considerably. And it is well worth the effort: In a course with 33 students I used 65 minutes in total, i.e., 2 minutes per student.
Addressing the effect, I investigated the students' views in a survey mailed to 50 Diploma students I taught in 2011. I received 19 answers (38%); not impressive, but a good indication. The answers showed a marked positive bias: 55 positive and 3 negative. The most frequent answer was the feeling of being welcome, accepted and respected (11). The atmosphere in class was more positive and the students felt more secure (9). The students felt much more encouraged to learn each other's names (6). It supported socialization (5) and better dialogue (5). They felt I was being professional and committed (4). It gave respect among the students (3). One student noted that it was a "live presentation" of systematic use of method, a cornerstone in academia.
Im sum, learning the students' names matters as it in enhances the learning environment substantially through strengthening the relations between the students and between the students and the teacher.
 Cranton, P. (2001) Becoming an authentic teacher in higher education. Krieger.
 Svinicki, M. and McKeachie, W.J. (2011) McKeachie's Teaching Tips. Cengage Learning.
 Ramsden, P. (2003) Learning to teach in higher education. Routledge.
Keywords: Learning environment, learning, names.