Establishing Classroom Environment, Mar 2015

Class EnvironmentIn a world in which we are bombarded with elaborate teaching techniques, it’s easy to forget the simple things that can make a course successful.  Chris Palmer, a professor in the School of Communication at American University, offers the following tips for fostering an effective learning environment in the classroom.

Setting a Classroom Atmosphere

  • Show up early for class
  • Take roll, learn students’ names, and encourage students to learn and use one another’s names
  • Convey your passion and enthusiasm for the subject
  • Create a welcoming environment
  • Foster a sense of belonging and respect
  • Encourage high performance
  • Promote active engagement
  • Make the class interactive
  • For small classes, sit in a circle
  • Carefully manage lecture-based classes

Managing Classroom Interactions

  • Start with a (student) summary of last class
  • Write the plan for the class on board
  • Call on students frequently to answer questions
  • Encourage quiet students to speak
  • Listen actively to students during discussions
  • Incorporate peer review
  • Consider permitting homework counter-offers
  • Wrap up the class
  • End class on time

Continuing Beyond the Classroom

  • Use formative assessments
  • Manage your office hours
  • Reach out to students who miss a class
  • Be responsive to e-mails and calls from students
  • Give plenty of student feedback

Visit the following sites for details on each of these tips:

Chris Palmer can be reached at

For more information, contact the Institute for Teaching and Learning at