Guidelines for Respecting Student Identity, Pronouns, and Names in the Classroom

A key aspect of identity is how we identify ourselves––the names and pronouns we use. Adopting practices to ensure that you are addressing students appropriately with respect for their identity is a critical component of an inclusive classroom and will help promote student belonging and engagement.

Similarly, providing clarity about how you as the instructor prefer to be addressed will alleviate any confusion due to cultural differences. This type of confusion could arise for a number of reasons. For example, non-native speakers of a language are often not able to connect a non-intuitive nickname to its full name (e.g. Robert/Bob and Francisco/Paco). Many students (particularly first-generation college students) may also be uncertain whether they should address their instructors as Dr. X., Professor X, Teacher, etc. Providing this information explicitly along with the pronouns you use ensures that all students are comfortable addressing you and sets a precedent that all student and instructor identity will be respected in your classroom.

Emory has a number of tools that are available to help students and instructors address each other respectfully using the pronouns and name (and pronunciation) they have indicated. Here, we focus on how you as an instructor can demonstrate your respect for student identity by utilizing these tools to supplement inclusive classroom practices.

Note: We welcome feedback on the information presented here. If you have comments or questions, please reach out to the CFDE at

Key Approaches

Part of feeling included and welcomed in a community starts with people knowing your name. One of the challenges that both faculty and students can find is uncertainty about name pronunciation: faculty want to pronounce names — even complicated ones — correctly, and students may not feel comfortable correcting a faculty member after the early days of the semester. One option to help prevent that awkwardness, and to help foster a sense of inclusion and belonging, is a Canvas-integrated tool called NameCoach.

—”What's In a Name… Pronunciation?” Emory Digital Matters Blog (2020) 

Called by Name: Using NameCoach in the Classroom (Candler School of Theology Office of Digital

Emory students now have the option to designate their pronouns through the university’s official student information system, the Online Pathway to University Students (OPUS). (To learn more, see the Emory News Center article announcing this policy: Students soon to be able to select their own pronouns in OPUS.)

  • Instructors: If you are the instructor of record, when you log in to OPUS and pull up your class roster, the pronouns will be there immediately next to each student’s name. If you download an Excel spreadsheet version of the roster, the pronouns will remain with the names. This is an easy way to share your roster with your Teaching Assistant(s). The default is to not list any pronouns. In other words, students must opt-in for their pronouns to display; and they can always opt-out later if they wish.
    • Note:These pronoun selections will be populated in the OPUS roster but not the Canvas roster for your course. (See Pronouns in Canvas, below.)
    • There is currently no place for instructors to designate their pronouns in OPUS or the HR system. The CFDE recommends you do this on your syllabus, within the content of your Canvas course site where you include other personal identifying details, and in your Canvas profile. (See Pronouns in Canvas and Instructor Tone/Modeling, below.)
  • Students: If you are a student, when you log in to OPUS, one of the tiles you see right away is Profile. Select this tile, and you’ll find the option to edit your pronouns.
  • Language classes:Different languages and cultures have different ways to address gender and pronouns. We will add guidance on this in the near future.

Students and instructors can now update their Canvas profile to include personal pronouns. Selected pronouns will appear next to your name in a variety of locations throughout Canvas, such as the People page and Discussions. Instructions and more details can be found at Canvas Support: Adding Pronouns in Canvas

Instructor Tone/Modeling

Set a tone of respect as part of the course expectations on the first day of class and through your course documentation. Connect this discussion with honoring one another’s names and pronouns. You can model this in a number of ways:

  • Include your name and pronouns on your syllabus and on your Canvas course site where you include other personal identifying details, and use NameCoach (more information above) to record the correct pronunciation of your name. Share this information with your students on the first day of class.
  • Allow students to self-identify their name and pronouns. Remind students that they can designate their pronouns on OPUS (see above). Have students use NameCoach to record their name and nickname if applicable.
  • Practice pronouncing each name correctly.
  • Note that some students will be comfortable with some names and pronouns in particular spaces, and different names and pronouns in other spaces. If a student has opted in to share their pronouns through OPUS, you should be able to use this student’s pronouns in Emory spaces. When using a student’s name and pronouns outside Emory spaces (for example recommendation letters, talking with parents), check with the student first.
  • Only call roll or read the class roster aloud after providing students with an opportunity to share with you the name and pronouns that they use and those they want you to use in the class.
  • Acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake about someone’s pronouns or name and correct yourself.
  • If someone else misgenders a student by using an incorrect name or pronoun, politely provide a correction whether the person who was misgendered is present or not.

Adapted from Teaching Beyond the Gender Binary in the University Classroom.

Additional Resources

  • Safe Space Training. The Emory Safe Space program is a 3.5 hour training program designed to help all faculty, staff, and students provide support for the LGBT community at Emory.
  • Be on the lookout for upcoming installments in the “A User’s Guide to Understanding Pronouns” seminar series presented by Laney EDGE in partnership with the Office of LGBT Life. 
Resources for Emory students

  • Inclusive Pedagogy at the Emory CFDE (in particular, see the Inclusive Pedagogy Handbook linked under “Discussions and Resources.” The Handbook has a section on gender diversity.)
  • Trans-Inclusive Classroom Tips Short Google Document that provides information on supporting trans and non-binary students at your institution.
  • Teaching Beyond the Gender Binary in the University Classroom. This article provides information on common challenges to gender-inclusive teaching and evidence-based solutions to make classrooms more inclusive for gender non-conforming students.
  • Gender Pronouns. This website from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center offers a guide about pronoun usage.
  • Welcome, Singular "They". This article focuses on the APA’s endorsement of the use of “they” as a singular third-person pronoun, provides background on the significance of using inclusive language, and supplies the reader with an updated grammar reference guide.