Learning from our students

Sometimes we overlook the obvious, so eager are we to begin our taught sessions where time is at a premium, and it takes our students to pull us up short.

We know who we are, we know a university as prestigious as Loughborough would not ask us to teach without checking our credentials for such a key role, and yet sometimes we forget the most basic of essentials.

Students from PHIR and Social Sciences collaboratively exploring with staff ways of engaging students when teaching large groups said respect was essential, and produced one simple tip. “To earn our respect, tell us who you are. Please introduce yourself.”

It sounds obvious. Introducing ourselves is, after all, basic good manners. It demonstrates our respect for those to whom we are speaking. We recognise it is difficult, if not impossible, to develop an effective working relationship with someone whose name you don’t know.

However it appears this simple, basic introduction is often being overlooked. It is an important chance when we can help students identify in their early careers here those around who are experts, maybe in the fields which attracted them here, and whose knowledge they will want to seek specifically at a later stage. It is a time to say hello, to explain who we are and what our expectations are for the learning journey through a session or a module.

Some academics can be reticent about self-promotion but this is courteousness rather than a full-blown publicity tour. Many tutors are initially introduced during induction – the time students face significant information overload. Whilst it is great to meet students in induction it is advisable to reintroduce yourself when taking your first session (advice from those who have been there, done Freshers and bought the tee-shirt).

If your research specialism is something related to the module session you are teaching whether directly or indirectly through shared research methods, or some tangential connection then it is valuable for students to hear this briefly.

Alternatively consider prior to your first session sending all students a link to your up-to-date web profile/ website and/or blog via the LEARN module. This situates you and sets your expectation that students should be reading something pre-session. If relevant to the ensuing session do share with them a paper of yours, or one you’ve worked on. You could ask them to read it indicating some key points they can look identify during the reading, or key questions you want them to consider as they read. This helps students recognise your expertise is introduced not to intimidate them but to advance their knowledge on their journey to become the experts, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs of tomorrow.