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Connecting With Your Students

Connecting With Your Students

17 June, 2016

In teaching students, it is important for you, as an educator to know

  • Who your students are
  • Why they are taking your class
  • How you can improve their learning in and out of class

Impact of Connecting with Students to Learning

A number of authors have explored the effect of building rapport on student learning (Benson, et. al., 2005; Meyers, 2009, Umbach & Wawrzynski, 2005; Witt, et. al., 2004). There are a number of potential advantages:

  • Instructors can better understand their audience and therefore deliver more related lectures, and use more appropriate examples and classroom activities resulting in more involved students and improved learning.
  • Students will feel more comfortable expressing their feelings in or out of class.
  • Students are more likely to get excited about the course content and enhance their class participation.
  • Students will feel appreciated and therefore more willing to be intellectually challenged by the instructor.
  • Having strong rapport builds a mutually beneficial and exciting learning environment.

Getting to know and connecting with students

  • On the first day of class, share some information about yourself including your background, research interests, a personal website, why you enjoy teaching this course, etc.
  • Also on the first day, gather information about students such as their name, year in college, reason for taking the course, previous exposure to course content, etc. Use index cards to collect this information and refer to the cards whenever you interact with a student.
  • To create ease and a relaxed atmosphere, smile and integrate humor.
  • Step away from the podium.
  • Arrive early for class and stay a bit later to chat with students and address any questions they may have.
  • Ask students questions about their experiences connected to course content.
  • Be available and motivate students to meet either during office hours or after class.

Making the most out of office hours

Nilson (2010, p. 89-93) recommends some tips for holding effective office hours:

  • Inform your office hours clearly in your syllabus, in the first class, and prominently on your office door.
  • Have all students to meet with you in office hours at the beginning of the semester.
  • While students are writing their first assignment, request that they visit you to review early drafts to get some feedback.
  • Have students turn in or pick up their assignments, tests or exams in your office.
  • If using group work, have each group make an appointment to report on their progress.
  • Start your meeting with small talk. Determine if they like the course and how things are going for them this semester.
  • Arrange seating so that there is a comfortable distance. Close the door partially to make sure privacy, but not all the way.
  • State your limits for office hour meetings. For example, students should not come to office hours to get a review of a missed class, or if students want to discuss changing a grade, they should come with a written justification.
  • Present in your syllabus what students should expect in office hours and how they should prepare in order to get the most out of the meeting.