The learning process can be very intimidating for some students. Maybe they have struggled in previous courses, doubted their intellectual abilities or had a hard time concentrating in class. Regardless of their reason for struggling, every student deserves the chance to be in a positive learning environment.
Creating a culture of learning in the classroom can require some work up front, but once that environment is established, teachers will see joy and success from their students. To help teachers create culture of learning, we have compiled seven tips to be used with easy-to-follow book, Outliers in Education for classroom management.
- Establish high expectations. Expectations help shape both social and academic achievements a classroom. Students rise to the expectations a teacher creates. Studies have shown that when teachers set high standards, students tend to rise to them and learn more throughout the year. A Harvard professor named Robert Rosenthal performed a study on the subject. He found that teachers who had high expectations tended to give students more time to answer questions, more specific feedback and more approval.
- Encourage students to have positive interactions with each other. It is important for students to be supportive of one another. Bullying should not be tolerated. When students are supportive and willing to help others, the classroom culture will be one of collectiveness, ease and positivity. Activities such as Good Samaritan Day can be used to educate students how to stand up against bullying. We also talk about the power of positive peers in our award-winning teen book, Ingredients of Young Outliers.
- Give students a voice during class. It is important for students to feel empowered in the classroom. This means they need to feel comfortable asking questions or engaging in respectful debates. Teaching students the art of communicating disagreements successfully will be crucial not only in a classroom, but as they continue to grow and enter the professional world. Teaching them non-verbal communication skills is part of this as well, we have a list of positive listening postures here, and what not to do here that will make you laugh.
- Make the classroom a safe place to fail. This is invaluable. Failure is what oftentimes delays people from following their dreams or halts them from ever starting. One of my favorite expressions is “Fail stands for first attempt in learning”. It is very important for teachers to help students understand that failure is not the end of the world. It is a part of the learning process that everyone goes through. Author, Dr. John Shufeldt talks here about the extreme failures he has faced on his journey to success. Failure is not the end, failure is the beginning of a road to success.
- Model how students can learn. This includes not only learning, but setting goals as well. Goals are a big part of learning and students need to know how to set and manage goals. Even teaching in college, I was surprised at how many students didn’t know different ways of learning and how each class can be a different learning process. It can be fun for students to go through the learning process with a teacher. Teachers can do discovery lessons with their students to help students learn how to take charge of the own learning and foster curiosity.
- Give feedback often. By providing feedback to students, they are able to see if they’re on track or if they need to make adjustments in their learning. Students can gain confidence quicker when teachers give them more feedback because they will learn to not second guess themselves as much. It is important for teachers to word their feedback carefully though, and provide it away from earshot from others. Some students are very sensitive to negative feedback and will become closed off.
- Avoid only celebrating grades. Celebrate the accomplishments too. Even though school is on a grading system, life isn’t. Sometimes the students who struggle the most, show the most improvement. For example, you might be able to point out how they’ve been able to increase their grade with every assignment. This can be a huge win for a student, even if their grade is still not the best. Or, maybe there is a student who is usually very shy, but has been speaking up more in class. Celebrate their boldness. Victories for every student may be different, but it is important to recognize them so that students will gain more confidence and continue to grow.
We hope these seven steps will help you create a culture of learning in your classroom. Has there been another technique that you have found helpful in your classroom? Please add to the list by commenting below. And as always, share with your teacher friends!
For more helpful classroom tips, read our six-chapter teacher guide entitled Outliers in Education. It’s truly for teachers at every stage of their career and every grade level, through college.