Getting to Know Your Students and Establishing Rapport

A growing body of research stresses the important role that prior knowledge plays in student learning. Instructors who seek this prior knowledge are taking a very direct interest in the students. If instructors expose what students already know, they will have more success in attaching new knowledge to the schematic frameworks that students bring to class. Capturing students’ questions at the beginning of the semester also provides an interesting way to refine the curriculum around student needs (Fleming, 2003).

Needs Assessment Tools*
Direct Evidence: quizzes, exams, essays, projects, and anything else that represents actual student performance as learner. Indirect Evidence: surveys, interviews, observations, reflective journals, and anything else that elicits opinion about student learning.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Courses
Direct Evidence Indirect Evidence
Humanities Courses – Options Vary with levels
Direct Evidence Indirect Evidence
The data collected through needs assessment tools will benefit instructors and students alike.  It will provide students with a clear and understandable vision of the learning target (1); it will guide instructors to shape assignments to develop the target skills and concepts that students find most challenging (2); instructors will identify what activities engage students most productively (3), and what interventions advance student progress (4).
 
*These tools are examples of potential needs assessment material as employed at UC Merced. There are many ways to approach learning about students' prior learning, attitudes, etc.
 
References:
Fleming, Neil. Establishing Rapport: Personal Interaction and Learning. Idea Paper # 39. IDEA Center Website
 
Needs Assessment Tools*
Direct Evidence: quizzes, exams, essays, projects and anything else that represents actual student performance as learner. Indirect Evidence: surveys, interviews, observations, reflective journals and anything else that elicits opinion about student learning.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Courses (large and small)
Direct Evidence Indirect Evidence
  • Concept Inventories at the start and end of the course to measure gain in learning. A student who does beginning and end activities will get a 1 percent course bonus. Educational researchers have developed various concepts inventories that allow for pre-post testing. Not only can they provide a baseline at the beginning of your course, but also identify efficient teaching methods.
  • Math skills quiz to gauge students’ mathematical preparation for a physical science course. It can be given as a formal quiz, an activity done in class with clickers, or recommended for students to do on their own as homework. Potential Outcomes: 1) the quiz will inform students of mathematical expectations of the course; 2) it will inform instructors of widespread mathematical weaknesses, if given as a quiz or activity in class; 3) allows to emphasize topics from the previous course applicable to the current one; 4) it allows students to gauge their mastery of old material 5) it offers an opportunity to recommend tutoring and/ or office hours, assign math-emphasis questions on homework, emphasize these math skills in the current course, etc. 6) it ensures that students are in the correct course level (i.e., honors vs regular). UC Merced instructors may contact Carrie Menke by email for the complete document.
  • Concept Maps: applicable to smaller classes or discussion sessions for larger classes. Potential Outcomes: By having students create concept maps of the previous course material, instructors will refresh their memory, see which concepts they are most/ least comfortable with and see how they are or are not making connections between the material. In both Physics 8 and 9, lecturers use the concepts and mathematics of force, energy, and work energy theorem to relate the two.
  • Interview with clickers during lecture. These straightforward questions can provide direct and indirect evidence of learning as well as set class expectations. Potential Outcomes: 1) to teach students to use clickers; 2) to assess student background, preparation & academic standing; 3) to receive immediate feedback about students’ understanding of previous course material; 4) to emphasize topics from previous course applicable to the current one; 5) to inform students about academic support, tutoring, office hours, etc. and class demands (hours need to study for this course)
  • Questions on CROPS about syllabus to check students’ understanding of the most salient points.
  • BIO 1 Interview with Clickers: to inform students about academic support, tutoring, office hours, etc. and class demands & expectations.
Humanities Courses (large and small classes) –options vary with levels
Direct Evidence Indirect Evidence
  • Class completes its first writing assignment to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses as writers.
  • Entry survey: to gain information on students prior knowledge on the class outcomes.
  • Writing Diagnostic: Repeat assignment later on, as part of final assessment where they reflect on their growth at the end of the semester
  • Entry level quiz: to gain information on student abilities
  • For two course sequence, the first homework assignment covers key topics from the first semester that still need to have and will be key to success that second semester. Instructor will not only check for correct answer, but will use this “robust problem solving” process to also identify what students need to brush up on.
  • First homework assignment, students write about themselves.
  • Reflective Journal on strengths and weaknesses as writers.
  • Oral discussion: Since one of the course outcomes is the writing process: students reflect on their writing to surface the conceptualization of their understanding of the writing process.
  • Course survey: (For upper division writing minor) questions on students’ demographics (student major, year) and preparation (other writing courses taken, including introductory writing courses, to get a sense of history)
  • Student Introductions: Meet a buddy and introduce them to the class.
  • Contract: students are requested to assess prior languages taken, language placement exams, AP exams, and that they have read and understood the syllabus. It is used for placement to confirm placement or replacement.