Classroom Community

Classroom community and classroom management are two sides of the same coin. When the classroom community is strong with things like clear roles and responsibilities, respectful relationships, positive expectations and equitable consequences, often discipline issues are minimized. 

Classroom Management sits within the larger concept of classroom community.

On this page, you’ll find information on: 

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Building Classroom Community

Promote a Positive Classroom Climate

    • Set the tone: As the instructor, you can model the actions and attitudes you want in your class – share your enthusiasm, respect for others, and civility. 
    • Co-create expectations: On the first day of class, facilitate a discussion with your students specifically to identify positive behaviours and expectations that will help students feel safe, accepted, and valued.  
      • Consider creating a “Classroom Guidelines” list to post on your D2L course page that you (and your students) can refer to during the semester. This item may be of even greater importance for fully online classes, as engaging in a more formal, academic environment online may be new to some of your students. 
    • Respond: Seek feedback from your students throughout the term, and promptly address any issues if they arise. 

Stimulate Student-Student Interactions

    • Plan an Icebreaker: On the first day of class (and perhaps throughout the semester), facilitate an activity that has students get to know one another in a fun, creative, relaxed way.  
      • For a large class, students can still introduce themselves and get to know those who sit around them.  
      • For an online course, get creative with the technology tools that allow students to interact with one another. Consider a Flipgrid video introduction. 
    • Build interactivity into learning activities: Working collaboratively not only keeps students engaged, but also allows students to learn more deeply, provide one another with feedback, and challenge one another.  
      • For an online class, explore the many interactive technology tools available to reach specific learning outcomes.  
      • For a large class, have students explain a solution to their partner prior to sharing a solution yourself. See High Leverage Teaching Practice for more ideas. 
    • Build interactivity into assessments. Would your students benefit from providing one another with feedback? Collaborating on a group presentation? Tapping one another’s experiences? Create opportunities for your students to work together to create something great. 

Engage with Students

    • Be personable and approachable: Let students know how they can contact you. Chat with your students before/during/after class. Show your students you care. For an online course, use audiovisual interactions so students can see and hear you, rather than only reading your text. 
    • Use student names: Learn your students’ names as quickly as possible (ask for their preferred name and pronunciation) and use them regularly.  
      • For face-to-face classes, consider using name tents to learn student names. 
    • Accept questions: Make space for your students to ask questions and take action to respond to these questions.  
      • For an online course, consider creating a forum where students can ask questions and receive a response from you or their peers.  
      • For a larger class, use formative assessment tools to gauge where students are struggling, and come back to the next class with extra support. 

Things to Consider Saying Before the End of Your First Class

You can find some ideas for building classroom community and setting expectations on our tip sheet: Things to Consider Saying Before the End of Your First Class. 

Classroom Management

Even in the most harmonious classroom communities, classroom management and student discipline can become something that faculty need to address and resolve.  

4 Key Aspects of Effective Classroom Management

1. Use of Rules and Procedures

These are the routines and behavioural expectations for everyone in class. 

Identify specific rules and procedures for your classroom (whether virtual or face-to-face): 

    • General classroom behaviour; 
    • Beginning and ending of class routines; 
    • Transitions and interruptions; 
    • Use of materials and equipment; 
    • Group work (including virtual breakout rooms); 
    • Seatwork and teacher-led activities.

Involve students in the design of rules and procedures. 

2. Building Relationships with Your Students

Relationships are the foundation of effective learning environments and well-managed classrooms. 

Use specific techniques to establish your leadership and confidence in the classroom: 

    • Exhibit assertive, but not aggressive, behaviour (i.e. making and keeping eye contact, facing the student, keeping a tall posture, aligning facial expression to reinforce the key message); 
    • Use appropriate tone of voice; speak clearly and deliberately; avoid indications of emotions; 
    • Persist until the appropriate behaviour is displayed: don’t ignore inappropriate behaviour; 
    • Establish clear learning goals and assessments. 

Use specific behaviours that communicate an appropriate level of cooperation: 

    • Provide flexible learning goals; 
    • Take a personal interest in students; 
    • Foster equitable and positive classroom behaviours; 
    • Respond appropriately to student incorrect responses.  

3. Use of Disciplinary Interventions

Disciplinary interventions are responses to students when their behaviour does not meet classroom expectations. Employ specific techniques that acknowledge and reinforce acceptable behaviour and acknowledge and provide negative consequences for unacceptable behaviour: 

    • Teacher reaction or response 
    • Tangible recognition 
    • Direct cost 

Establish clear limits for unacceptable behaviour and an effective system to record these behaviours. 

4. Mindfulness and Awareness of the Learning and Social Environments

Be aware of surroundings, quickly and accurately identify problems, and address them. 

    • Heighten awareness of the actions of students in your class; 
    • Respond immediately; 
    • Forecast problems; 
    • Reframe problems so they’re not personal; 
    • Monitor your own thinking and mindset; 
    • Take care of yourself.  

(Source: Marzano, R.J. (2003). Classroom management that works: Research based strategies for every teacher. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.)

Difficult Conversations with Students

This article from Faculty Focus has some suggestions for difficult conversations with students: 7 Bricks to Lay the Foundation for Productive Difficult Dialogues