Building a Positive Classroom Culture and Climate

By Rod Lucero

A learning environment will happen, whether intentional or not…so
why not go about building a positive environment, intentionally.

—Rodrick Lucero

Positive Classrooms are Essential for the Following Reasons:

  • It increases student engagement
  • It creates a safe discursive environment
  • It encourages student collaboration and participation

Remember: People support what they help to create. The old adage holds true:  Students won’t care about what you know until they know that you care.

Building and Maintaining a Positive Learning Environment

  • Be consistent with the expectations stated in your syllabus and, as things arise that require making changes, be sure to provide your rationale.;
  • Do your best to learn, AND USE students names from the first day…this is the key to establishing relationships and puts you well on your way to a great culture!
  • Begin every class with a brief "grounding"…this is critical to transitioning students into the topic at hand.
    • This could be announcements
    • A reflective, general question introducing the topic of the day
    • A funny antidote
    • A relevant current event
  • Get everyone’s "voice in the room" at the beginning of every class, Once their voices are in the room, students are complicit in establishing the classroom culture! You can do this by breaking the class into small groups, twosomes, threesomes, foursomes, etc., with a task:
    • "share what you recall from our last class meeting"
    • "Share with a partner what you found most difficult to understand in today’s reading?"
    • "In groups of three, share how you might use the last lecture in your field?"
  • Provide choices whenever possible.
  • Trust students to do the right thing!
  • Think about your objectives: Are there better venues for teaching those goals?
    • For instance, a walk about—send your class out, in pairs, to walk and talk about a specific topic.
    • An empty field, Lory Student Center, a coffee shop, etc., will do as a destination.
  • Encourage students to interact with you and with each other.
  • Ask for student input frequently. Here are a few ideas:
    • Ask students to close their eyes and raise the number of fingers that represent the number of things they got out of today's lesson. You’ll get immediate feedback on your effectiveness, and they’ll know that you care about what they think!
    • "Dear Professor"…ask your students to quickly pull out a half sheet of paper and share with you…"What went well today...What do you think I should change?"
  • Provide closure with every lesson. For example:
    • "Next time we will…"
    • "Please read…."
    • "Share one new thing you learned today…"
  • Closure is a way to build anticipation and a reason for students to be excited about coming to your next class!

Copyright and Permissions:

Dr. Rodrick Lucero is the Master Teacher Initiative (MTI) coordinator for the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University. He is an Associate Professor in the School of Education and the Associate Director for the School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation (STEPP).


Peter Connor - TILT Web Content Writer and Editor