Roll Call

Photo from Flickr, courtesy of Ken Stein.

Photo from Flickr, courtesy of Ken Stein.

By: Tony Greiner, PCC Faculty Librarian

April 9, 2014

I like the word “Community” in the phrase “Community College.” However, we all know how difficult it is to build a community here at PCC. Our students come for a bit, and leave. They move from campus to campus. Few of them join clubs or attend extra-curricular activities that are not accompanied by an assignment or extra credit. They don’t know each other’s names, and they often don’t know ours.

I attended college in a previous millennium, but I do remember roll call. Almost every class began with the instructor running through the names, usually first and last, of the class members. Often, this was because grading included attendance, but now I think the real benefit of this practice is that we learned our classmate’s names. The jock who always wore a team jersey was Wilbert. The pretty girl whom I wanted to ask out but couldn’t find the nerve was Daisy. The smart nerdy woman was Pamela.

As I traipsed and stumbled through those years, I would occasionally find one of these folks in the cafeteria or the Coke machine, and talk to Wilbert about Calculus and Pamela about the new “Diet Coke.” I never did have the nerve to talk to Daisy, but at least I could smile at her when we passed in the hall. I knew every instructor I had by name, and they learned mine. Calling roll created a community.

That’s my point. If you want to explore this further, the University Of Virginia Teaching Resource Center has a list of tips to learn student names. (Strangely, they don’t have roll call!)

An oldy but goody, What Matters in College by Alexander Austin, found that getting undergraduate students involved was a matter of two things. Great faculty-student interaction, and greater student-student interaction. I believe that both cases start with knowing each other’s names. We can start by putting ours up on the board every class, every day, and calling out for theirs.


Austin, Alexander. What Matters in College: Four Critical Years Revisited. San Francisco: Josey-Bass, 1993. Print.

Palmer, Michael. “Not Quite 101 Ways to Learn Students’ Names.” University of Virginia Teaching Resource Center. 2012. Web. 11 April 2014.

Library & Learning
Volume 6 Issue 1 April 2014

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