Fostering Personal Connections: 3 Helpful Tips for Getting to Know Your Students

Grant Son, faculty in the SPS Sports Management Program, shares advice on getting to know students and explains why this engagement can lead to a more rewarding learning environment.

Grant Son
August 22, 2018

Instructors who know their students well are better able to create an engaging learning environment. A familiarity with students’ backgrounds can help instructors identify areas of expertise or experience relevant to a class session and this can lead to richer discussions with more personal relevance. Also, knowing which students lack extensive background in the subject can be equally be important, as comprehensive checks with these participants can help the instructor more effectively pace the class sessions and identify areas that should be further supported.

Familiarize yourself with your class profile

A survey of your Photo Roster in Canvas before your first session will reveal some basic information about your class such as gender. Canvas / Photo Roster has the functionality to create flashcards to help you review the class roster as a series of flash cards; a great method to memorize names and match faces. Memorizing the names and backgrounds of all students can be an overwhelming task for instructors. However, the benefits are incredible including enhanced credibility, improved class discussions, and a more personal student-instructor relationship.

Get students to share

Ask your students to provide a brief bio including their education background, professional experience, and any other relevant information you find helpful to creating an inclusive teaching / learning environment. If your class size is appropriate, you can invite students to introduce themselves on the first day of class. Alternately, you can ask them to record short video introductions using the built in Panopto tool, and post those on canvas. Live or recorded intros will  enable students to familiarize themselves with each other right from the start.

Study your material

Get to know each student. Before each class, review your notes and your roster. If you’re doing any kind of group work or small conversations, look to see if there is a possible fit based upon previous academic work or professional experience. Identify students that might have something special to offer. This is a great opportunity to engage students that might normally be quiet.

Any time is a great time to learn about our students, and right now we can prepare for the semester by developing a more complete picture of our students as the interesting and complex people they are. Canvas can be a great tool in helping you to get to know your students strengths and weaknesses, their backgrounds, and their interests and this knowledge can help you to create a more rewarding semester.


Grant Son
Senior Lecturer
Entrepreneurship & Innovation
Faculty, Sports Management Program