Friday, September 9, 2016

Creating Classroom Community

If your teaching experience is anything like mine, you may have some classrooms where everybody seems to work together and others where it feels like pulling teeth to get a discussion or a group project started. Some classes just seem to click, while others are as much a struggle at the end of the semester as they were in the beginning. Multiple surveys and educational research results that span K through Higher Education indicate that an engaging and welcoming classroom atmosphere, where students know and support each other, promotes learning (references listed below). It makes sense: wouldn’t you rather attend a class when you feel welcome, the professor and students know you, and you feel like you belong?

So what can we do to create a classroom community? Well, there are the obvious little things; learning the students’ names, asking them how they are doing, inquiring about their dorms and the cafeteria, celebrating athletic wins and commiserating over defeats. (If you watched the football game against Cheney last Thursday you may already have practiced commiseration this semester!) Those are all things that may help the students warm up to you, but how do you get them to know and trust each other? Creating a true classroom community takes intention and time on part of the instructor, but it is a time-investment that may be well worth it if you plan to use active learning techniques and group work in your class. In her article titled Love the One Your With: Creating Classroom Community, Cynde Geroge shares a radical approach that worked for her:

Are you intentional about creating classroom communities in your classes? If you are, what do you do? Please share so that we can learn from each other.

If you are interested in testing out a community-creating activity, join us on Thursday 9/15/16  (LHML 309 at 11:15 am). We will discuss what works and what doesn’t and you will be invited to share some techniques that work for you. If time allows, we will also scratch the surface of differences among creating school communities, classroom communities and learner communities.

Selected references on correlation between classroom community and academic achievement:
Holland, T., & Pithers, R. (2012). Enhancing Classroom Communities and Course Engagement. Learning, 28(27.1), 28-36. Retrieved from
Reyes, M. R., Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., White, M., & Salovey, P. (2012). Classroom Emotional Climate, Student Engagement, and Academic Achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(3), 700-712. Retrieved from
Wighting, M., Nisbet, D., & Spaulding, L. S. (2009). Relationships between Sense of Community and Academic Achievement: A Comparison among High School Students. The International Journal of the Humanities, 7(3), 63-72. Retrieved from​

1 comment:

  1. Anna, I think you are right; but I wonder whether there is also a difference between a class, a family and a group of friends. While I think it would be nice for a class to be like a family or group of friends, which is what sometimes I think the description of a "true classroom community" sounds like, I think it is sometimes unnecessary and, at times, (the attempt to create one) overburdens instructors.

    If we are to get students to thrive or even just survive in different environments, creating a "true classroom community" may have its disadvantages and, at times, may even be counter-productive. It leaves students unprepared to deal with hostile environments. Most classrooms I know (of) are neither (hostile nor very friendly or homely).

    I think there is a reason many international students learn much, in spite of the lack of a "true classroom community" in their countries of origin. I think it is partly a result of expectations or, rather, the lack of a "true classroom community" expectation.

    Once students expect a "true classroom community;" the lack of one becomes an impediment; if not, it cease to be a precondition for learning and also an excuse for not learning. My idea of "active learning," as against "passive learning," puts much of the burden on students rather than instructors.

    College, they say, requires active rather than passive learning. At some point, we must stop treating college students like children. That does not mean we should not have a classroom community. It means, I think, we should be careful about creating a pre-college classroom community. Just a word of caution here or, if you like, a note about how not to create a classroom community!

    Safro Kwame