Strategies to promote student development and productive course climate
In the previous part, we discussed five strategies to promote student development and a productive course climate. Today’s episode is the last in student development and course climate series. Here we will talk about the next five strategies.
Set up the feedback process for course climate
Some of the alienating attitudes and behaviours work in a subtle way inside the classroom. It may become difficult for teachers to understand whether all the students in the class are equally valued, accepted and heard. There are two ways to tackle this issue. You can ask student representatives to meet you on a regular basis to share feedback from the class. The second way is through an early course evaluation that specifically asks about issues in the course climate.
Prepare for potentially sensitive issues
Be it political or psychological or any other subject, we discuss a lot of issues in our course. Some of the issues seem to be potentially sensitive for some students. Preparing students to learn from these opportunities requires careful framing. We should explain to students why the course is dealing with the issue and the ground rules for a fruitful classroom discussion.
Address tensions early
In a classroom, it is apparent that knowingly or unknowingly, you or others may shut people out, causing marginalisation. If that happens, we should address the issue before it gets out of hand. If we said some comments that came out as a marginalising one, we can say that “I am sorry if you interpreted my comment as ….” If some students make such type of comments, you can take that student aside after that class to explain the impact of the comment by discussing the tensions explicitly.
When we talk about college students, it is a time when they are learning about managing their emotions. In such cases, we can discuss intent vs impact. That is, “you might not intended to mean this, but some people might interpret your comments as…” These strategies will protect the students who make unsophisticated comments so that they do not foreclose further development. At the same time, we acknowledged the frustration of the rest of the class.
Turn discord and tension into a learning opportunity
Students should understand that tension, debate, and discord are all opportunities to delve into a topic and expand one’s perspectives, so there is no need to avoid them. As we said earlier, college students are in a phase of developing social and emotional skills. Hence tensions and discord can often overshadow intellect, logic and rational thinking. Here teachers need to work constantly to shape the classroom climate. For example, if a classroom discussion is running high on tension, there is no need to foreclose it. Instead, we can funnel this into useful dialogue. We can also explain to students why discord and tension can be a valuable part of learning.
Facilitate active listening
Sometimes, tension may arise when students are not hearing what others are saying, so it is important to facilitate active listening. Asking students to paraphrase what others said is a good way to enhance listening.
In three parts, we discussed 16 strategies to promote students’ development and a productive course climate. We can discuss a new subject in the coming episodes.