Learning who your students are, including pronouncing their names correctly, helps foster their sense of belonging in class, and in turn promotes an accessible class climate (Wheeler 2016). (Read more about cultivating an inclusive class climate in our Inclusive Pedagogy Toolkit.)
Because “personal names index identities, including socio-cultural identities of ethnicity, nationality, language & religion” and mispronouncing names can negatively impact students feelings of belongingness in class, using a name pronunciation tool like NameDrop (see examples below) serves as a useful reference for faculty because the recordings can be reviewed throughout the semester (Pilcher 2016; Pilcher and Deaken-Smith 2022). Pronouncing the names of students correctly allows students to fully participate with the course materials, as students are less likely to be engaged in learning environments in which they feel they do not belong (Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Strayhorn, 2019).
Being able to listen to your students’ name pronunciations whenever you need will help you feel more comfortable communicating with them. You may want to establish a practice at the beginning of the semester to establish a positive relationship with students from the very first day.
You could record your name and add a link to the recording in your Canvas profile and/or email signature to model using these types of tools. Encourage students to use a name pronunciation tool, and add their recordings to their own profiles in Canvas. You can easily access your students' recordings on the 'People' page in Canvas by clicking on their names and navigating through their profiles.
NameDrop is one such name pronunciation tool that can help faculty and students build an inclusive learning environment, currently available for free. Georgetown University is exploring enterprise contracts for a name pronunciation tool, and CNDLS staff can offer some guidance on how to use free tools in the interim.
In the School of Continuing Studies' online program, the program designers added the NameDrop tool to the Canvas site to build community online.
While the University has not yet secured an enterprise contract with a name pronunciation tool, we'll use NameDrop as an example to get you started.
For a consultation on using NameDrop or another name pronunciation tool and adding audio to Canvas, please contact CNDLS.
Hurtado, S., & Carter, D. F. (1997). Effects of College Transition and Perceptions of the Campus Racial Climate on Latino College Students’ Sense of Belonging. Sociology of Education, 70(4), 324–345. https://doi.org/10.2307/2673270.
Pilcher, J. (2016). Names, Bodies and Identities, Sociology 50 (4): 764-779.https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038515582157
Pilcher, J. and Deaken-Smith H. (November 2022). Say My Name: Experiences & Impacts of (Mis)Pronunciation of Students’ Names in Higher Education. Nottingham Trent University. https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/47892/1/1633464_Pilcher.pdf.
Strayhorn, T. (2019). College Students' Sense of Belonging: A Key to Educational Success for All Students. Routledge. https://www.routledge.com/College-Students-Sense-of-Belonging-A-Key-to-Educational-Success-for-All/Strayhorn/p/book/9781138238558.
Wheeler, S. L. (2016). Two Short “As” and a Rolling “R”: Autoethnographic Reflections on a “Difficult” Name. SAGE Open. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2158244016658935.