The voice of De Anza since 1967.

Do your professors know your name?

March 12, 2016

There is something about the feeling you get six or seven weeks into a class when you realize your professor still does not know who you are.

It usually happens subtly, like when their eyes glaze over the classroom after they call your name, test in hand. You know it is unlikely they will know your name by the end of the quarter. Though in the eyes of the professor it may not seem like a big deal, it impacts the students when teachers take the time to learn their names.

If a professor can match a face to a name, this small gesture makes a huge difference in a student’s motivation, especially if the student goes to office hours or makes it to class every day. When a teacher takes that extra step, it gives them the feeling that the student is cared for. This can often give students the extra push they need to finish their homework or study for a test.

Establishing relationships with professors can boost the students’ morale, especially if an instructor teaches a subject the student may not be particularly interested in.

It is shown in research that students are more successful when they feel that the teacher cares. And it’s about time. In the workplace, bosses are expected to be engaged with their workers, and schools should reflect the modern world.

— Mark Healy, De Anza College psychology professor

Obviously, it is not always logically possible for professors to do this. De Anza’s class sizes sometimes make remembering names impossible.

Some professors have hundreds of students each quarter, often teaching them only once or twice a week. With relatively short class terms, professors are limited to 12 weeks to give students as much information as they can while getting to know them. At schools like De Anza, where the transfer rates are high, the likelihood that a student will have the same professor twice is fairly low.

Mark Healy, psychology professor at De Anza, primarily teaches large-forum classes. Despite the fact that he cannot remember the names of all his students, he uses different methods to make students feel important.

“I will never be able to connect with everyone, but a few is much better than none,” Healy said. “I think that it is important that I at least show students that I want to connect with them. I try to do as much as I can with students in different parts of the class by doing things as simple as asking them how their weekend was.”

He said 20 years ago, remembering names was not as important, but today, it is known that there is a big social aspect to a student’s education. Healy also said many professors at De Anza are not trained to engage with students, so making a change in the classroom can be sometimes difficult.

Research shows that students are more successful when they feel that their teachers care.

“And it’s about time. In the workplace, bosses are expected to be engaged with their workers and schools should reflect the modern world,” said Healy.

Working to provide students with an environment in which they feel recognized and supported presents a challenge to professors and students alike.

In smaller classes that are based more on humanities and discussion, it shouldn’t be too hard for professors to make an effort to know who’s who in the classroom. In large-forum classes, the challenge is put in the hands of the students.

Asking questions in class and showing up to office hours, even if just to introduce yourself, can help professors recognize you. As students and teachers strive to establish connections both inside the classroom and out, remembering someone’s name is an easy first step in the right direction.

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