Connecting with your students

When instructors connect with their students, they build rapport in the classroom and foster student engagement in the learning process.

Do you know…

  • Who your students are?
  • Why they are taking your class?
  • How you can improve their learning in and out of class?

Why connect with students?

Several authors have explored the impact of building rapport on student learning (Meyers, 2009; Umbach & Wawrzynski, 2005; Witt, Wheeless & Allen, 2004) and have concluded that the benefits include:

  • Better understanding of the audience on the part of the instructor.
  • Increased student engagement in the course content, leading to enhanced learning.
  • Greater student comfort with expressing their thoughts in or out of class.
  • The feeling among students that they are valued, which makes them more willing to be intellectually challenged by the instructor.
  • The creation of a mutually beneficial and exciting learning environment.

Getting started with connecting with students

  • On the first day of class, share some information about yourself including your background, research interests, personal website, why you enjoy teaching this course, etc.
  • Collect information about students on the first day such as their name, year in college, reason for taking the course, previous exposure to course content, etc. Use index cards to collect this information and refer to the cards whenever you interact with a student.
  • Smile and incorporate humor to create ease and a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Step away from the podium.
  • Arrive early for class and stay a bit later to chat with students and address any questions they may have.
  • Learn students' names.
  • Ask students questions about their experiences related to course content.
  • Be available and encourage students to meet with you, either during office hours or after class.
  • If you notice students in distress, see Cornell Health for suggestions on what you can do.


Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., & Lovett, M.C. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Angelo T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

LaSere Erickson, B., Peters, C., & Weltner Strommer, D. (2006). Teaching first-year college students. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Meyers, S. A. (2009). Do your students care whether you care about them? College Teaching, 57(4), 205-210.

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Umbach P. D., & Wawrzynski, M. R. (2005). Faculty do matter: The role of college faculty in student learning and engagement. Research in Higher Education, 46(2), 153-184.

Witt, P. L., Wheeless, L. R., & Allen, M. (2004). A meta-analytical review of the relationship between teacher immediacy and student learning. Communication Monographs, 71(2), 184-207.