Strategies to promote student development and productive course climate
In the previous part, we discussed how course climate influences students’ learning. Today, we will talk about the strategies to promote student development and a productive course climate.
Support students in dealing with ambiguity
For students comfortable with the basic duality of worldviews, there can be an emotional resistance to intellectual development, so it is important to support them in dealing with ambiguity. We can do this in several ways. Validating different viewpoints, even the unpopular ones, is one way to do that. We can also state explicitly that part of critical thinking is to embrace complexity than oversimplifying matters. Also, make them understand that the aim of classroom discussion is to enrich everybody’s thinking, not to reach a consensus.
Resist a single right answer
We all know that textbooks present information linearly. However, knowledge is generated and contested over time. For students to get the maximum out of their textbooks, we have to create a structure for it. Asking students to develop multiple approaches to a problem and asking them to articulate their perspectives will be helpful. Teachers should only volunteer their opinion after students so as not to bias them. Using assignments with multiple correct answers will also foster intellectual development.
Incorporate evidence into performance and grading criteria
Educate students to use the rubric by asking them to read each other’s works and circle the pieces of evidence to highlight them. This will enable students to support their opinions with evidence. Incorporating evidence in the grading scheme is important as it will eliminate grade grubbing based on the notion that personal views are subjective and cannot be graded fairly.
Examine your assumptions about students
Assumptions influence the way we interact with our students, which, in turn, impact their learning. Therefore, it is crucial to uncover and, at times, question those assumptions. It is common for teachers to assume that students share our backgrounds and frames of reference. We also make common assumptions about students’ abilities, identities and viewpoints. These assumptions may result in unintentionally alienating behaviours and can affect course climate and students’ developing sense of identity.
Classes with a high number of students pose barriers to learning for each individual. Creating an effective learning environment includes making students feel recognised as individuals by teachers and peers. Making an effort to learn students’ names, creating opportunities for students to learn each other’s names, and going to students’ arts and sports events are some ways to break down barriers created by large classes.
Do not ask individuals to speak for the whole group
Minority students often report either feeling invisible in class or sticking out as the token minority. This experience aggravates when they are addressed as spokespeople for their whole group. It will have implications for their performance because when only one student speaks for the entire group, others feel non-engaged, invisible and angry. These emotions can disrupt students’ ability to think logically and clearly and solve problems.
Today we discussed six strategies to promote students’ development and a productive course climate. We can discuss the next set of strategies in the coming episode.