illustration by Clare Reid
A positive classroom climate—one in which students feel personally connected to one another and where they feel respected and seen by the professor—can feel like a luxury. But, as Barr reminds us in his 2016 review of the literature (IDEA Center), climate matters.
Studies outlined in the article show that a sense of rapport, whether between students or between students and the teacher, predicts student participation, investment in the course, and even learning. And professors have real power to encourage and support these productive relationships—they happen when the teacher “focuses on the students’ perspectives, experiences, interests, capacities, and needs; establishes positive instructor-student relationships; fosters student self-efficacy, and strikes a balance between being challenging and being caring.” This article makes a great case for the importance—and the feasibility—of developing a positive climate in the classroom.