"If it is clear from the expressions on their faces they have no idea what you are talking about, be willing to take the time to present the concept in different words, with different illustrations. Expecting their confusion to disappear with time is not good enough."
Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#368 Tips for Sustaining a Positive Learning Environment
The posting excerpt below is a from Appendix 14.1. Suggestions for
Establishing a Positive a Positive Classroom Climate, in the chapter,
A Helpful Handout: Establishing and Maintaining a Positive Classroom
Climate, by Linda R. Hilsen, in the book: A GUIDE TO FACULTY
DEVELOPMENT: Practical Advice, Examples, and Resources, by Kay Herr
Gillespie, Editor, with; Linda R. Hilsen, and Emily C. Wadsworth,
Presented by, POD Network, Professional and Organizational
Development Network in Higher Education. Published by, Anker
Publishing Company, Inc., Bolton, Massachusetts, copyright ? 2002,
all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
UP NEXT: Ways to Think About Being a Dean
Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
---------------------- 1,194 words -----------------------
TIPS ON SUSTAINING A POSITIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
Excerpt: Appendix 14.1. Suggestions for Establishing a Positive a
Positive Classroom Climate
1. Be concerned about the physical setting.
a. Check the lighting in the room. Make certain all can see to read
the texts, overhead, or large screen projection. On the other hand,
there is no good reason why every light has to be on at eight
b. Encourage students to inform you about any discomforts. For
example, if an open window is causing a chilling draft, tell them to
feel free to make needed adjustments.
2. Make the examples you use relevant to your students' lives:
"How would you feel if somebody dropped a whole load of oil in Lake
Superior?" "How will this current drought affect your budget?"
3. Do not be so rigidly tied to your syllabus that you do not take
the time to capitalize on real life situations. If Jesse Jackson
visits your campus, find a way to connect this event with what is
going on in your class and your students' lives.
4. Address students by name. Use a seating chart, name tags, the
Polaroid technique, or whatever may work for you to learn their names.
5. Remember, not all reasons for incomplete assignments are excuses.
Yes, we must establish rules, but there are occasions where the rules
need to be broken. Be compassionate, not cynical. Grandmothers really
6. Constantly read your audience's response:
a. If it is clear from the expressions on their faces they have no
idea what you are talking about, be willing to take the time to present
the concept in different words, with different illustrations. Expecting
their confusion to disappear with time is not good enough.
b. If students are bored or you have just covered an in-depth topic
intensively, there is nothing wrong with stopping. Allowing
them to talk
or stretch for a minute or two and then continuing.
c. In long classes, provide a short break to address human
comforts. Students have a difficult time following you if they have
7. Provide nonverbal encouragement:
a. Maintain eye contact.
b. Move about the room. Come out from behind that podium. Display
your willingness to be a person; sit on a sturdy desk or table. Move
into their space.
c. Be animated and expressive, both facially and bodily. Let them
see and feel your enthusiasm.
8. Model the thinking processes in your field for your students. Do
not just tell them; show them, and then let them practice. If you
are not talking, it does not mean you are not teaching.
9. Use positive reinforcement:
a. Give students recognition for contributing to in-class
discussions or answering questions. Use positive reinforcement when
possible, but if the answer is incorrect, try to lead the student
through continued questioning to reach an acceptable position.
b. Use student test answers to review material after a test. Keep
track of good answers as you correct the tests, and let the students
"star" a bit. This is a lot less boring than you reading all the right
c. After getting permission from the student, share good student
work with the rest of the class.
d. Validate student opinions by referring to points students made
previously, not always using "as I said last Thursday." Say, "to follow
up on John's point Tuesday?."
10. Keep constant tabs on how your students are progressing:
a. Use conferencing outside of class to discuss problems and areas
where students are doing well.
b. Be willing to provide review, catch-up, or further explanation
c.If students are not going to make it, honestly counsel them
you are forced to fail them.
11. When asking questions, pause. Students need time to process the
questions and their answers. Count to 15 before moving on. If you do
not , the message you are giving is, "I really don't want to take
away from my time to listen to a student." This is not the message
you should be sending out if you want your students to learn.
Verbalizing information helps students internalize it. We should
provide as many occasions as feasible for them to verbalize. Invite
responses by pausing for a good length of time. If you wait long
enough, you will get an answer if you have not worded the question in
an alien language or manner.
12. Do not talk down to students:
a. Avoid judging behaviors, which cause students to feel
b. Avoid stereotyping. Do not think that female have a certain set
of interests and males have another. Do not think that all older
students like to talk in class. Do not target examples and questions
towards certain groups in your class.
13. Be a facilitator during discussions, not the emcee. You do not
have to do all the talking in your classroom. Let the students help
each other learn as you guide them. A marvelous peak experience
occurs when the students forget you are there and pass right by you
in the discussion. It is then you know you are going your job.
14. Use peer pressure to your advantage on assignments and classroom
decorum. Students can motivate and reprimand each other.
15. Give your students possibilities for providing feedback during
the course. You might want to try one or two of the following:
a. At the end of the first week, ask students to take out a piece
of paper and anonymously comment on "things I like about this class,"
"thing I dislike," "how I would like to see things change."
b. Have a suggestion box outside of your classroom or office.
c. Establish a lecturer's feedback group. Any student can attend to
bring up anything about the course. Usually these groups meet in the
instructor's office or the cafeteria.
d. Use a formative evaluation instrument to get a reading early in
the course. My favorite happens to be "Teaching Analysis by Students"
e. Have a consultant from your instructional development service
discuss the course with the students during part of a class hour.
f. Have a random sampling of students interviewed by a consultant
to answer questions you have composed.
16. The classroom climate is enhanced by out-of-class contact.
Recognize students in the halls and malls.
17. Read the dean's lists, the school paper, the sports section of
the local paper, etc., to learn about the accomplishments of your
students. Mention them in class.
18. The climate in your office is just as important as the one you
establish in class.
a. Let students know where your office is and how to find it.
b. Make conscious choices about how you arrange your office. When
going over papers, have the student sit beside you so you can both see
the product being discussed.
c. If you are located in an inner complex, inform your students
that the secretary doesn't bite.
d. If you are working when a student appears, don't ignore the
student. Take a moment to set a meeting time which is mutually
e. Personalize your office. Family photos, rugs, and plants help.
f. If you make appointments with students, keep them. If you are
detained, call someone to post a note for the student.
TOMORROW'S PROFESSOR MAILING LIST
Is sponsored by the STANFORD CENTER FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING