Classroom Management

This mini-primer presents guiding principles and practical advice for managing your classroom. These principles apply to both online and on-ground courses, and are based on the textbook, Middle and Secondary Classroom Management: Lessons from Research and Practice. Although this book was written for preservice middle and high-school teachers, the principles on which it is based applied to the college classroom as well.

To begin, classroom management encompasses the actions that instructors take to establish and sustain a caring, orderly environment that fosters students' learning. Establishing and sustaining this type of environment is part of your role as a course instructor. Students appreciate when instructors work to establish and maintain care and order in their courses.

Authoritative Classroom Management Guiding Principles

  • Establish high expectations, both intellectual and behavioral, for your students.
  • Be warm, respectful, and supportive.

Class Expectations

Expectations should be

  • reasonable and necessary.
  • clear and understandable.
  • consistent with your instructional goals and what we know about how people learn. 

Sample Behavioral Expectations (for your syllabus)

  • Several times during each class session, you will be expected to participate in small-group activities (such as discussions or problem-solving) with the students sitting near you. Please sit near one or two other students every class session to facilitate these activities.
  • At the end of small-group activities, I will sound a chime. This is your signal to end your conversation and focus your attention on processing the small-group activity.
  • Keep in mind that much of our communication with each other is non-verbal, and that this does not come through in your written communication. I expect you to use good netiquette in communicating with me and other students.

Demonstrating Warmth, Respect, and Support

  • Be welcoming. Arrive to your classroom a few minutes before class starts and welcome students and chat informally. Start your online course with an assignment in which students introduce themselves to you and each other.
  • Get to know your students' names and interests. 
  • Be a real person to your students. Share information about your research, your interests, and, if you are taking classes, your own studies.
  • Be sensitive to your students' concerns, particularly about being able to master the course content.
  • Establish and enforce clear behavioral expectations.
  • Be inclusive.
  • Ask students how they feel about the class climate. A mid-semester survey is a great way to accomplish this.
  • Welcome all students' input. Establish procedures for calling on students that gives everyone a change to participate. For example, when you pose a question, draw a card from a stack of index cards that contain all students' names. Don't just call on volunteers, who are usually the same students.
  • Be fair. Establish and communicate clear deadlines and grading policies. Share grading rubrics with your students so they know what to expect.
  • Promote students' autonomy. Provide choices in assignment types, small-group composition, or presentation dates.
  • Search for and highlight students' strengths, particularly in assignment feedback.
  • Utilize productive communication skills. Listen actively to students, and respond in a way that supports their problem solving.
  • Use humor, but not at students' expense.

You are welcome to contact one of our faculty developers to discuss your teaching ideas, concerns, or questions, related to this mini-primer, or any other topic related to teaching and learning. We are happy to work with you via email, phone, or Skype, or meet with you in your office or at the OIA.