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9 ways to define and develop classroom culture

9 ways to define and develop classroom culture

4 min read
  • The science of learning

Having a good classroom culture will enable students to learn and thrive. It will help equip students to learn to their best abilities and help to increase their achievements. It’s also likely to make them feel happier at school.

Creating a positive classroom culture includes valuing every student, building a learning-focused environment, and promoting good behaviour, while not limiting students’ creativity, curiosity and desire to learn. It is both equally important and tricky to define (and develop).

With this in mind, we’ve put together some research-based tips to help you develop and define your classroom culture.

9 ways to develop classroom culture

Tips to define and develop a classroom culture

1. Ensure psychological safety

Psychological safety in the classroom involves students believing they can ask questions, explore ideas, and make mistakes, without being humiliated. Students need to feel psychologically safe in class to be able to engage well with their learning, as it allows them to feel confident asking questions, knowing they won’t be made to look stupid. This allows students to make mistakes and learn from them.

Research suggests that psychological safety at school improves student well-being, and can boost their self-confidence. Teachers can create a psychologically safe classroom by actively listening to their students, encouraging them to ask questions, and helping students to see mistakes and setbacks as learning opportunities.

2. Encourage a sense of belonging

A positive classroom culture is one where every student feels valued, accepted and part of the group. Developing a shared identity between students, and encouraging a sense of belonging to the class, can promote a positive culture. One way to develop sense of belonging is doing team-building activities that will strengthen relationships between students.

Some teachers try to encourage this by greeting students at the door when they arrive at class. Although this can be (too) time costly, if done efficiently can help sets a positive tone and helps to develop a strong relationship between the teacher and the class too.

While you want to develop a community environment where each student feels part of the class, don’t forget to make time for each student individually too. This allows you to catch up, track progress, and ensure no student is struggling.

3. Create a sense of purpose

Within your classroom culture, it is a good idea to incorporate a curiosity and a hunger to learn. This motivation to learn, engage, and put in effort can be inspired by helping students and the class as a whole to have a sense of purpose. Often, sense of purpose might come from students knowing how their learning in class will help them in the future.

To develop sense of purpose in your class, cultivate curiosity in students to fuel their drive to learn, and encourage students to set class goals that they can strive to meet together.

4. Develop a culture based on thinking

Having a positive classroom culture in which every student feels valued, accepted and supported is one thing. Having a positive classroom culture which also emphasises a desire to learn, be curious and think about things deeply is also crucial..

Create an inquisitive environment in which students not only feel comfortable asking questions, but in which they are also always developing their critical thinking skills. Research suggests that questioning and evaluating information, developing critical thinking, is a key way to enhance learning.

5. Establish routines

Establishing a classroom routine is another great way to develop a positive classroom culture in which students feel comfortable. Try to keep a consistent routine of what happens throughout the day and through lessons.

Removing uncertainties will minimise stresses and help students to feel settled. This could also involve certain small tasks and responsibilities which students rotate through each day, which will also develop their sense of belonging to the class. If students know what to expect when they come to class, rather than worrying about what might happen, they’ll be more ready and able to learn.

6. Set rules and expectations

Along with a consistent routine, have consistent, clear rules and guidelines. It’s good for this to include both incentives and deterrents to encourage good behaviour and minimise disruptive ones. This means students know what is expected of them, what they can expect from their classmates, and what they can expect from their teacher. Again, this removes uncertainty and stress, and helps to build a positive classroom culture based on trust.

7. Use praise well

Celebrating students’ successes, alongside praising students for their efforts (rather than for natural ability) will create an environment in which all students feel they can do well if they try hard. In other words, it will develop their growth mindsets. It will also create a culture with an emphasis on hard work, where students are driven to achieve.

8. Provide challenge and support

Alongside using praise effectively, a positive and hard-working classroom culture can be inspired by creating a classroom environment which provides challenges, alongside the support needed to meet these challenges. Again, this encourages hard work and helps students to become resilient learners.

9. Integrate teaching with social and emotional learning

Emotional intelligence and social competence are often just as important as knowledge and intelligence. Emotional intelligence will help students in their work and develop their consideration for others around them, boosting the positive classroom culture.

Teachers can develop emotional intelligence in their students in several ways, such as:

  • Using and encouraging active listening;
  • Helping students to label and manage their emotions;
  • Helping students to recognise the emotions of their classmates too, showing empathy.
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Final thoughts

Developing and maintaining a positive classroom culture can enhance students’ personal and social development, alongside improving their academic engagement and learning. However, classroom culture is not one single thing. There are several factors which contribute to creating a positive and achievement-enhancing culture. We hope you find these tips helpful for growing a positive culture in your classroom.

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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