Pictures save the day!

Submitted by Peter Turner on

The first step to building professional relationships of respect with students is to know and use their name. I have problems remembering the names of some of my students that are in my hybrid classes, since we only meet once per week. The Great Southwest Teaching Conference in October is an annual conferenced for sharing out of good teaching ideas. A colleague I met there confessed to the same dilemma, and shared their solution - a picture of each student at the beginning of the semester! So this semester I had my students hold up their name tag (a folded-over-lengthwise 3X5 file card) just under their chin, and I snapped their individual picture on my iPhone (they were lined up in alphabetical order, according to their last name). Now, when I grade their work, I have their picture on my phone which helps to prompt my memory. And, right before each hybrid class meeting, I scroll through the pictures quickly to get a quick reminder/cue.

The result is qualitative, but I am much, much better on accurately recognizing and calling my students by their correct name!

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Average: 4.6 (8 votes)


Rachel Holmes Tue, 04/28/2015 - 4:54pm

Thank you Pete!  As the end of the semester comes to a close, I have to admit that there are still a few students whose names I forgot.   Your idea is such a great way to ensure that I can put a face to a name in every one of my classes. I know this makes a tremendous difference to the students!

Teri Graham Wed, 04/29/2015 - 11:53am

Thank you so much for sharing....I have a similar dilemna and love this idea...maybe we could share the pictures with the students so they can upload them into canvas with their profile and then it is right there when we grade etc...

Becky Baranowski Wed, 04/29/2015 - 7:02pm

Another colleague of ours does this as well.  I love the idea, but I have always wondered if we "can" do this.  Is verbal permission from the students ok to do this?  Do we need written permission?  I have been hesitant, but have not taken the time to get my questions answered.  I am so glad you shared this....thanks!

Frederick Maihofer Thu, 04/30/2015 - 5:12pm

I have students seated in groups alphabetically; eight to a team.  I can usually remember 5-6 of eight.  The students really appreciate an instructor who knows who they are.  I also try to use their name in the course of classroom discussion.  I have a question on my instructor rating, "Does the instructor know your name?"  I added this Q some years ago due to focus groups on what the students felt important from an instructor.  As I age, it gets tougher. 

Roselyn Turner Thu, 04/30/2015 - 6:38pm

Pete, you should archive those photos for when your students become teachers (since you are invited to and attend so many of their graduations).   You could include their student pic in their congratulations card).  And then pass on this exercise to them for their tool box and as a legacy :-)

James Cerven Thu, 04/30/2015 - 8:28pm

Hi Pete,

Great idea to assist you with remembering students names. If you have five or six classes with 20 or more students in each remembering everyones name can be a challenge. Refreshing your memory before class is a great way to help you place the name with the face. As Fred commented, it means a great deal to our students when we know them by name. Well done.

Erik Huntsinger Sat, 09/12/2015 - 11:15am

Good idea, Pete. BUT I would have appreciated more quantitative data!

Debra Lemenager Sat, 02/20/2016 - 11:27am

Pete, This is a great tip you gave during the "Assessment in Action" class. Nursing clinicals are typically one day a week with 3-6 days in the rotation.  When I have new students I have never met before, I just learn their names and the rotation is over!  I will use this idea and take pictures on the first day of clinicals.  Thank you for the tip!