Get to know your students as individuals.

Our students are wonderfully diverse in their personalities, perspectives, experiences, and dreams. Getting to know students as individuals enriches the classroom, creating an environment that is more enjoyable and productive for students and instructors alike.

  • Work to use correct pronunciation and pronouns for each student. Often times instructors use wrong pronouns or repeatedly mispronounce names without realizing the impact upon the student. Names and pronouns have personal, cultural, and emotional significance and are part of individuals’ identities.
    • Ask each student what name or nickname they would like you to use, and work outside of class to learn correct pronunciations. Preferred name policies accommodate the needs of transgender students and others.
    • Similarly, learn each student’s pronouns. Volunteer your pronouns if you feel comfortable, and offer a general invitation to students to share theirs, if comfortable.
    • Give students the option to respond via a survey or to record their pronouns and names in a database, which can aid in the pronunciation of students’ names.
  • Invite students in class to tell you and others a little about themselves — their values, goals, ambitions — to assure them that they are seen as more than a stereotype. See more.
  • Encourage students to meet with you during office hours. Students, especially those who are underrepresented in the classroom, may develop a better sense of belonging by meeting with you in a one-on-one or small-group situation. Try these strategies.
    • Clearly explain to students the purpose and varied uses of office hours.
    • Early in the semester require students to come to office hours once.
    • Have special topics office hours to discuss issues of particular interest to you and the students.
    • Add extra office hours near a big test, exam, or project.
    • Make yourself available by email for students who feel uncomfortable or are too shy to come to office hours.
  • Show students that you care about their individual success. Studies show that students who perceive that their instructors care about their performance will put forth more effort into learning the material [3]. This can be done both in one-on-one interactions, but also making all students feel comfortable and accepted in the classroom setting [4]
    • Be sure to reach out to students who are struggling to offer support.
    • Let students know that you believe in their ability to do well in your class.
    • Be sure to bring encouragement and conformation into your classroom with all students who participate. 
    • Students want their contributions to feel worthwhile, and are more likely to be successful if they feel their voice matters in the classroom [5].
  • How to Create a Welcoming Culture for Autistic Students

Research is accumulating tactics that universities and their faculty can use to build trust across identity differences. For example, inviting students in a class to tell you and others a little about themselves — their values, goals, ambitions — helps assure them that they are seen as more than a stereotype. Testimonies from other students who face similar identity pressures (thus helping to normalize the experience) but found gratifying, life-shaping experiences in college, have been shown to lastingly improve minority-student achievement. When stereotypes imply certain identities don’t belong — as for women in advanced STEM coursework — evidence that professors see them as belonging, and are invested in their potential, can substantially improve their performance. 

Claude Steele, “Why Are Campuses So Tense? Identity, stereotypes, and the fraying of the college experience.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 26, 2019.
Cited works

Center for Excellence in Teaching. (1999). Teaching Nuggets. Los Angeles: University of Southern California

Davis, Barbara Gross. (1993). Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

UCLA Office of Instructional Development. (1997). The TA Handbook 1997-98. Los Angeles: University of California

“Teaching In Racially Diverse College Classrooms.” Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. Harvard University, 2002. Web. 24 May 2011. <>.