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  • Writer's pictureAndy Hind

Conducive classroom cultures...More than just environments

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Pupil outcomes, in any classroom, are the product of four key influences:

  1. Human Capital - The ability of the adults to do their job

  2. Classroom Culture

  3. The confidence of the learners - How a pupil feels about themselves, as a learner, and their ability to think about their learning

  4. The learning process - An intentional journey that the adults plan and deliver to ensure every pupil makes progress…the lesson.




Classroom cultures are essential when it comes to the promotion of successful learning for every pupil. Establishing a conducive classroom culture should be treated as an essential professional practice for any teacher or teaching assistant. Creating and embedding a conducive classroom culture is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and adjustment. All staff need to continually assess and reflect on their practices, seek feedback from the pupils, and collaborate with colleagues to create the best possible learning cultures for every young learner.

Consistency is key and it is essential that the teachers and teaching assistants work from a set of ‘Must Haves’ when trying to establish a vibrant classroom culture in every classroom across the school.

At the heart of any conducive culture are relationships and what is referred to as the ‘relational’ domain. Children just don’t learn as well with people they don’t like. Fostering positive relationships with every pupil must be the first priority and this can be done by showing genuine care, interest, and respect. Every pupil in your class has a dream…do you know what it is? How will you create the time and space to have regular 1-to-1personal conversations with each child in your class…a regular ‘fireside chat’? This is not the time to discuss their reading or writing targets, but time to talk about themselves, their interests and their lives outside of school. Perhaps this time can become part of your morning rituals…talking to 2 or 3 children each day.



Other aspects linked to the relational domain and creating authentically conducive classroom cultures include:

A sense of psychological safety - How psychologically safe does each pupil feel and how do you know? As a whole staff team, what are your agreed approaches to ensuring, as well as you can, that every child in every classroom feels psychologically safe? How will you start 2023/2024 with a consistent approach towards creating psychologically safe classroom cultures? A key player when trying to cater for psychological safety is the use of RITUALS. Rituals are not the same as routines, although both are essential. Yes, there is an absolute need to establish consistent routines and procedures for daily activities, transitions, and classroom management. Clear routines help pupils to understand what is expected which, in turn, supports a feeling of security. It is vital that every adult has agreed on these routines and that there is consistency across the school. No adult can afford to let these slip and it is essential that every adult recognises the need for a collective responsibility to ensure these routines become embedded into the fabric of the schools. Reinforce these routines regularly and make adjustments as necessary. Rituals, whilst being similar to routines, have a different purpose. Whereas routines support a child in understanding what is expected of them in different situations, rituals have the sole purpose of helping someone be in a better state of mind…a psychologically safe state.

Putting a book bag in their tray when they first arrive in the classroom is a routine…music playing in the background, as they arrive, is a ritual.

Self-registering by putting their name on the register wall is a routine…having a go at this morning’s open-ended challenge (on the whiteboard), with your partner, is a ritual e.g. which 3 questions could ONLY have the answer chocolate chip cookie.

Which 4 rituals greet every child, every morning, in every classroom, at the start of every day. How consistent is this across the school?

Which rituals do you end the day with? What do you do at the end of the day that make the children want to come back tomorrow? Remember, we always remember the beginning and ending of episodes.

Every pupil must have a sense of belonging. Creating a sense of belonging is crucial for pupils to feel connected, valued, and included in the classroom community. Teachers and teaching assistants must be deliberate in their approaches to fostering this sense of belonging. We can start to embed this sense of belonging by ensuring every pupil has had a voice in creating an agreed and inclusive set of classroom social norms…not RULES! Social norms are an agreed set of behaviours for when we come together in a collaborative situation. How many of your Year Teams, Phase Teams, Department teams have established a set of social norms for how the adults will behave when they come together in professional learning communities? Collaboratively create these social norms and expectations with your pupils. Ensure that these norms promote respect, kindness, empathy, and inclusion. Encourage pupils to contribute their ideas and suggestions to create a shared sense of ownership and also agree on how they will be used throughout the year. To further develop this sense of belonging, encourage peer connections: Design activities that foster positive relationships among pupils. Incorporate icebreakers, team-building exercises, and group projects that require collaboration and cooperation. Encourage pupils to work with different classmates to facilitate cross-cultural connections. Practice inclusive teaching strategies: Utilise teaching strategies that acknowledge and incorporate pupils' diverse backgrounds and learning styles. Provide multiple ways for pupils to engage with the content and demonstrate their understanding. Use examples and materials that are relatable and relevant to their experiences.

Having a sense of belonging means being proud to ‘wear the badge’. What will be your class’s anthem for 2023/2024? Which song will they walk into on Monday morning and walk out to on Friday afternoon? Which song will become ‘our anthem’?

Remember, creating a sense of belonging requires ongoing effort and attention. By implementing these and other strategies consistently, teachers and teaching assistants can establish a classroom culture where every pupil feels valued, respected, and part of a supportive community. Which other strategies will be used, consistently, across your school?

Finally, how aspirational are your classroom cultures? Every pupil deserves to be in an aspirational classroom in which they are continually encouraged to better themselves, to advance their knowledge, skills, and position in society. Yes, clearly communicated high expectations for academic achievement, behaviour, and personal growth are essential for aspirational cultures but it goes beyond this. Creating carefully planned ‘desirable difficulty’ challenges that move every pupil to the edge of their comfort zone, whilst remaining psychologically safe, and then reflecting on the process (and not just the product) support the development of an aspirational mindset. Thinking back over the last academic year, what percentage of your pupils’ learning time did they spend engaged in the higher-order thinking skills, including analysis, seeking patterns, evaluation, judgement creative and critical thinking? We can encourage every pupil to develop this growth mindset towards challenge, which emphasises the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort, practice, and resilience, if we design learning processes that engage them in these desirable difficulties, but they must be carefully planned. Finally, teach pupils that mistakes and setbacks are opportunities for learning and improvement.

Remember, the classroom culture means more than just classroom environment and it is essential that all staff agree on and work from an agreed set of ‘Must Haves’.


 

If you would like a copy of this blog, as a PDF document, to use as a think piece with staff in your school, please click below:


Creatining Classroom Cultures
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Download PDF • 35KB

 


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