Why is it important to learn students' names?
Inclusive pedagogy acknowledges and designs for a wide variety of learner needs and backgrounds. Ignatian Pedagogy encourages instructors to meet students where they are, to consider the full depth of the human person. When people meet, one of the first things they learn about each other is their names. Names are dense with meaning and they are a point of entry into a person’s context. To meet students where they are, we begin by learning their pronouns and the correct pronunciation of their names. Our goals are to:
- Create an inclusive learning environment that avoids isolating students.
- Ensure that we don’t make students feel uncomfortable by mispronouncing their name, misgendering them, or forcing them to correct us if we get it wrong.
- Value and respect each student’s name and pronouns because they form a part of that student’s identity.
Best practices for learning students' names
Inclusivity begins with asking students to introduce themselves and to pronounce their names. Later, it extends to learning about students’ lives and context. Below are some practices you can use to create an inclusive classroom environment from the outset.
- Canvas Profile: Direct students to the profile feature in Canvas, which allows students to change their displayed name, select their preferred pronouns, and write a brief bio.
- Introductory Discussion: Create a discussion in Canvas where students can introduce themselves. Invite students to record a video introduction using Canvas Studio where they pronounce the name they prefer and, if they like, to identify their preferred pronouns. Model this by creating your own video. Since these introductions benefit both instructor and students, be clear about why pronouncing names correctly and respecting pronouns is important.
- Thoughtful Discussion Prompts: Not all students are comfortable talking about themselves, especially when given an open-ended prompt such as “tell us about yourself.” When creating an introductory discussion, try using questions that allow your students to situate themselves, relate to course themes, and to connect with others in the class. For ideas about how to do this, see these Example Introductory Discussions created by other Seattle University faculty.