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Getting to Know Your Students


Last Reviewed:
February 9, 2024

First Published:
August 10, 2022


Robust research suggests that students benefit immensely from student-faculty interaction, particularly when it comes to student well-being, intellectual commitment, and motivation (Morrison 2021). While getting to know students can be challenging in larger classes or within an online context, certain teaching strategies, such as mini-surveys or small-group meetings, can help faculty connect with students in ways that build a positive learning environment. Additionally, designating time in class or the clinical setting to get to know students can also help mitigate feelings of isolation that might be experienced by non-traditional students, international students, and minoritized students (Lee, et al, 2017). 

Use the comments section below to let us know your tips for getting to know your students.

  1. Course Design: Scholar Dee Fink, PhD developed a course design method that begins by centering the experiences and needs of the learners. When designing your course, fill out page seven of his handbook. If you do not know the answer to some of these questions, can you ask your colleagues or even students for insight? Use these answers to help shape your assignments and build content into your courses.

  2. Large classes: In addition to using icebreakers for your students to get to know one another, try using Poll Everywhere questions to learn more about your students. You could put one Poll Everywhere question up each week that asks something like ‘What is your favorite pizza topping?’ or ‘Would you rather spend a day at the beach, outdoors at the mountains, or relaxing at home?’ You can also ask questions like ‘How are you feeling about the upcoming exam?’ or ‘How are you coping with your current workload?’ These polls will give you a chance to check in and connect with large groups of students.

  3. Online Courses: Set up brief small-group or individual Zoom meetings with your students in the first week of classes. You can say hi, get to know them by name, and they can see who you are. These mini-meetings are also a great way to answer questions they have or share resources with them. 

  4. Inclusivity: It can be helpful to distribute a few brief surveys throughout the year to get to know more about your learners. You may ask questions like, ‘What name do you go by?’, ‘What are your pronouns?’, ‘What are your career goals?’ It can also be helpful to leave open-ended questions like ‘Is there anything you want me to know?’; ‘Do you have any life situations that could impact your performance in class?’ or ‘Would you like me to follow-up with you about anything?’