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Career & Education

How to build a thriving classroom environment

Dr Karla

Sunday, August 27, 2017

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The new school year is fast approaching, and as educators we need to consider methods of fostering or of improving a positive learning environment. In my almost two decades of teaching, I have come to recognise the value of the educational climate in deepening student learning. It is not just about the content we teach; other elements of teaching matter too. Attitudes and behaviours that support learning lead to a productive classroom.

At the beginning of every school year, teachers have the opportunity to create an effective learning environment. The learning environment refers to the educational approach, learning styles, physical setting and culture in which teaching and learning occur. It is important to develop a sense of community in a classroom to promote positive attitudes towards learning. While the student population can be quite diverse, the majority of students thrive when they feel respected, supported, appreciated and valued.

For a student to learn, he or she needs to feel safe, respected and supported. Studies have shown that academic, emotional and social success at school begins with an affirmative learning environment. A successful classroom is best established during the first few weeks of school and tends to persist throughout the school year.

Methods for teachers to improve the learning environment

• Learn your students' names

This can be difficult in the first few days of school depending on the number of students that you have. It may be helpful to have students wear name tags. Make sure you also know the correct pronunciation. When you address students by their names, it adds a personal touch and cultivates a good relationship.

• Be polite

This is not just a virtue expected from students. Educators must model good behaviour and also show respect to their students. Respect is a two-way street. Using the words 'please' and 'thank you' shows that you appreciate them.

• Make eye contact and develop rapport

This helps to create a culture of trust. It shows that you recognise each person as an individual and this encourages them to work harder. Taking the time to inquire about a student as an individual shows you care.

• Create a code of conduct for your classroom

There must be a common understanding of positive and negative behaviours. Rules and consequences for delinquency should be discussed at the beginning of the school year. Students must know that they are accountable for their actions.

• Demonstrate optimism

Even if your students seem to be having a hard time grasping a concept, do not make negative remarks. There is always a positive way to respond to a situation. Some students may be getting lower grades than expected. Always encourage those students.

• Acknowledge positive behaviours

Even we as adults crave recognition and praise. Kids are no different. Students respond far better to praise than to punishment. When you recognise positive behaviours, you promote good self-esteem in students and strengthen the teacher-student bond. Effort as well as specific behaviour and outcome should be acknowledged. Ensure that praise is genuine and sincere.

• Teach with enthusiasm

Teaching with passion is infectious and effective in creating a positive attitude in the classroom. A teacher who is punctual, energetic and speaks in a clear voice that is easily heard encourages enthusiasm in his/her students.

• Express high expectations

This can make a remarkable difference, especially to a student who lacks confidence. Your high expectations boost students' self-confidence levels, making them feel that the goals set are indeed attainable. I personally have seen where my belief and confidence in my students push them to increase their efforts. In most cases this translates to excellence. Self-belief drives student achievement.

• Watch your behaviour

Aggressive behaviour by teachers such as punishing entire classes, yelling, sarcasm or humiliating students is counter-productive. This impedes academic success and decreases self-esteem in students. Use appropriate methods to punish students if deemed absolutely necessary.

• Provide prompt feedback

Students need to know what they know. Appropriate feedback is beneficial to learning. This means that tests, homework and classwork should be returned in a reasonable time frame, preferably within a week. Assessment is a necessity and ideally should begin early in the term. It assists students in monitoring their own learning.

• Collaborate with parents

Obtain an email list for parents through the class representative. Keep parents informed about the general happenings in your class. If there are individual student concerns, then reach out to those parents.

Here's to a great school year!

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Y es! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools . She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, or




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