Getting to know your students

In a large enrollment lecture course, it may seem like there are few opportunities to get to know your students more personally. In this video, Dan Levy demonstrates how, despite a class’s large size, instructors can still take concerted steps to better know their students. Levy pushes himself to learn more about his students’ interests and backgrounds, resulting in a friendly, welcoming space where students feel comfortable participating and taking risks.


Dan Levy, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy

Student Group



Harvard Kennedy School


Advanced Quantitative Methods

Group Size

74 students

  • Based on a study investigating the psychometric properties of teaching evaluation instruments, student-teacher rapport is one of the distinctive features of master teachers (Keeley et al., 2009)
  • This rapport is additionally related to increased student motivation and improved grades (Wilson et al., 2010)
  • Distribute an interest survey at the beginning of the course. Ask students to describe what makes them unique, their past coursework, interests, and other details that might help you get to know them.
  • When covering specific topics about which particular students hold expertise, gently draw those students into the lecture. By learning about students’ work experience, for example, you’ll position yourself better to harness the knowledge in the room. Doing this additionally communicates to students that you value their expertise.
  • Leverage office hours to strengthen relationships with students. Some instructors require students to attend office hours at least once to guarantee one-on-one time during the semester.
  • The University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching provides helpful ideas and resources for ways to get to know your students on the “First Day(s) of Class”
  • A post from Faculty Focus describes some common misperceptions about demonstrating care that instructors may hold