students believe about science and scientists affects what they hear, what they believe, how they study, and what they learn. Good teaching requires that we bridge the chasms of perception, language, background, and assumption that may impede effective communication and thereby hinder student learning.

Knowledge about students will enable the teacher to refine lectures, class discussions, comments, illustrations, and activities so that they are more effective learning experiences. References to student interests, backgrounds, knowledge, and even anxieties can make the class seem more personal and the material more accessible.

Tips for Learning Students' Names

  • Use photographs. Group three or four students in a single Polaroid shot. The act of posing for a picture breaks the ice, and you can have students write their name underneath their picture.

  • Arrive for class as early as you can and use this time to sit and talk to the students that are waiting for you to begin.

  • Use name cards. For seminar classes, place name cards in front of each student. For lab courses, post students' names above their work stations.

  • Use a seating chart. Ask students to sit in the same general area for the first few weeks and block out on a piece of paper general locations within the room and write the names of students inside the appropriate blocks. During the first class meeting, ask students to write on index cards answers to some simple questions about their background, interests, and motivation. Collect the cards and use them as memory aids as roll is called or papers and quizzes are returned.

  • Find out about their experiences in other science courses, with the particular subject matter in this course, and especially in prerequisite courses.

  • Arrange for regular informal lunches with different small groups of students.

  • Early in the course, write personalized comments on assignments returned; invite students to come by to discuss their progress.

  • Require students to pick up their exams in person to discuss the outcome briefly.


Our special efforts to get to know students' names can enhance their self-esteem and promote class participation. Most of us are overwhelmed by a large number of new faces and new names. However, memory of names and faces often can be triggered by associating them with some activity or event, such as a discussion after class about an assignment or the outcome of an examination. One way to create such memory jogging events for names and faces is to ask students to write a half-page self-description or to introduce themselves to the class with a statement of their interests or goals. In return, we should offer our own statements of interests, reasons for teaching the course, and goals and expectations. If your class enrolls fewer than 40 students, call roll for several class meetings at the beginning of the term to help you learn names. During the term, call students by name when you return homework or quizzes, and use names frequently in class. Ask students who are not called upon by name to identify themselves.

Office hours or problem solving sessions offer opportunities to get to know your students. Clearly defined and observed office hours mean a great deal to some students. If you offer to communicate with students by e-mail or voice mail, it is a good idea to tell them when the mail is checked and how quickly they can expect a response.


Teachers should state their expectations clearly. If a routine for success in the course is envisioned, share it with the students. Students who succeed are usually those who attend class regularly, ask questions, come to office hours and problem solving sessions, study outside class both alone and in study groups, seek to understand methods and overarching principles or concepts rather than specific answers, teach or tutor others, and discuss concepts informally with their fellow students.

In light of the varied backgrounds and expectations of students in most classrooms, it is essential that you know how to refer students to academic and other resources they are likely to need. Tutoring may be needed and expected

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