Make students feel welcome in your classroom by making the effort to learn about their backgrounds and interests. This will help you build a sense of community and also can improve instruction. When you know your students, you have a better understanding of their special needs, learning preferences and styles, relevant prior experience, and practical issues that will play a role in the class. One way to get to know your students is to find out their prior to current work experiences. This gives you a chance to acknowledge what students already know and to emphasize topics of particular interest. An initial effort to get to know your students also pays rich dividends when you are grouping students into teams.
Starting the first day of class, ask students to talk about themselves and their educational goals. Ask students to fill out index cards with their hopes or concerns for the class. Ask students how they learn best.
Taking the time to learn about each other can also prove beneficial for students. College may offer some students their first opportunity to engage with and relate to a wide range of people, and this can help them make the transition to the world of work.
Encourage students in your class to share their backgrounds with each other. Invite older students to share experiences that may help younger students appreciate working with those who are different. Try to help older students understand what skills or abilities younger students bring to the classroom as well. In the technological workplace, you never know whose talent, skills, knowledge, or unique attribute will be just what is needed to address the next challenge and lead to success.
What are some strategies you have used in the past for getting to know your students? How has learning about your students positively impacted your teaching and student learning?