Classroom Culture that Inspires Student Learning

A recent issue of The Teaching Professor has an interesting article that describes things you can do to create a classroom that will inspire student learning by making students feel energized and empowered. The 8 suggestions are as follows:

1) Create a sense of belonging.

Of course, knowing students by name is a major factor here.

2) Recognize that students look up to and admire professors.

Take seriously, therefore, everything you say to them and how you say it.

3) Recognize students' accomplishments, not just grades.

Every time you see a student doing something that indicates real learning, praise it or at least acknowledge it and its value. If we want students to be less focused on grades, we will probably have to help point them to the learning we want them to focus on.

4) Build moments of fun and excitement into the course.

This doesn't mean you have to be an “edutainer”. That may not fit who you are. But if you, who loves your field enough to have made it a career, can't get excited over the material, why should the students? And there is no contradiction between serious subject matter and laughter.

5) Encourage students to be creative and curious with the subject matter.

Make some time and space for creativity and curiosity. Let students explore some open-ended questions.

6) Encourage healthy risk-taking by making it safe for students to both fail and succeed.


7) Provide opportunities for students to be leaders in the classroom and to take responsibility.


8) Celebrate when students act on their beliefs.

I am sure we all know how important it is to learn student names and I know many faculty with very large classes who continue to work at learning the names of all the students. But I was also struck by the wisdom of #3. If we want students to focus somewhere other than grades, we may need to help them know what they need to look for. Acknowledging when we see signs of learning will help students know what they should be alert to in themselves and others. 

When students don't seem focused on learning, teaching can feel like an energy draining activity. But when you can get the students focused on the right things, there is no place more invigorating than your class!