Getting to Know College Students

As I prepare for the start of another term, I try to pass on bits of advice to my adjuncts that will help them have a successful semester.  I call these my Would-be Words of Wisdom.  My adjuncts usually appreciate my advice … I think.  😉

How Teachers Can Learn Students’ Names

Memorizing students names goes from doable, to challenging to impossible as the class size increases.  However, don’t use class size as an excuse for not even trying.  Some faculty members assign seating so they can refer to a chart.  Personally, I always preferred to let students sit where they wished.  If you take this approach, you can create a seating chart after the fact.  Once students stake out their territory, they seldom change.

Use mnemonic techniques to memorize names.  When I taught a course on study techniques, I covered mnemonics and included a section on memorizing names.  Basically, pick a physical feature of a person and mentally tie that feature to that person’s name.  Sorry, this topic requires much more explanation than I can provide right now.  I will come back to it in a future article.

Why Teachers Should Get to Know Their Students

Those of you who have been following my blog know that my mission to to help college instructors avoid the many pitfalls that can bring a promising teaching career to an abrupt end.  Staying out of trouble is the lowest level on Hummel’s Hierarchy of teaching needs, and getting to know you students helps.  They will be much more likely to open up to you with problems and concerns and less likely to take them to your dean or department chair.  And you will be less likely to be blindsided by critical student evaluations at the end of the term.

When an instructor knows something about his or her students, he or she can make the course real for the students.   If you know the hobbies and interests of students, you can relate those to course materials.  For example, if a member of the basketball team is in you statistics class, you could create an example problem that relates to field goal percentage.  If you know students’ majors you can emphasize course material that relates to those majors.  If you have pharmacy majors in your organic chemistry class, make references to synthesizing drugs.

About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC). My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students. After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.

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