Classroom or learning climate refers to the “ intellectual, social, emotional, and physical environments in which our students learn." (Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., & Lovett, M. C.,2010, p.170).
Why consider classroom climate?
- Classroom climate is affected not only by blatant instances of inequality directed towards a person or group of people, but also by smaller, more subtle "micro-inequities" that can accumulate and have significant negative impacts on learning (Hall, 1982).
- Incivilities that are not addressed properly not only negatively impact learning within the course in which they are experienced, but may also negatively influence a student's success at an institution (Hirschy & Braxton, 2004).
Considerations for classroom climate
The following borrows heavily from Ambrose et al. (2010).
- Stereotypes may cause alienation and marginalization among those who are the target of unfair generalizations. Students who have experienced stereotypes or expect to be viewed or judged in a certain way may encounter tensions and cognitive disturbances that interfere with learning.
- Instructors can influence the tone of the class environment through their interactions with students and other modes of communication, including the syllabus.
- Student-student interactions both inside and outside of class can affect the overall climate. How the instructor addresses negative interactions will have an impact on student learning.
- Course content that includes a variety of perspectives or that represents multiple views is more conducive to a positive climate.
Getting started with classroom climate
In addition to being reflective about the events that take place in your class on a regular basis, there are strategies you can use to gauge your classroom's climate. Ask for feedback directly from your students on their experiences in your course. This also serves to heighten students' awareness of their own study practices. A number of classroom assessment techniques (Angelo & Cross, 1993) are designed to do just that.
Ways to manage classroom climate:
- Incorporate diversity into your course and use inclusive teaching practices.
- Use icebreakers and collaborative learning to give students the opportunity to get to know one another.
- Include diversity and disability statements in your syllabus.
- Address incivilities right away.
- Establish ground rules.
- Check in on classroom climate periodically.
- Make efforts to connect with students.
Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., & Lovett, M. C. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Hall, S. (1982). The classroom climate: A chilly one for women? Washington D.C.: Association of American Colleges.
Hirschy, A. S., & Braxton, J. M. (2004). Effects of student classroom incivilities on students. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2004(99), 67-76.