Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Classrooms for successful students and successful teachers


Most of our children and grandchildren spend most of their time during childhood and adolescence in classrooms. If you think of the class as a small (or large) community, you might wonder what characterizes the community and what effect does the community have on a child’s learning. A few years ago, my wife Kathleen and I, along with two colleagues, addressed that issue in a study on the college classroom at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. I think our results may be equally valid for the elementary and secondary levels.

Basically what we learned was that college students who had a strong sense of belonging to a community in the classroom enjoyed the course more than those students who didn’t have that sense of community. But the real icing on the cake was this: They also demonstrated greater improvement in their exam scores from early in the semester to the end. Bottom line: Students who have a strong sense of community in the classroom show greater improvement and enjoy their learning more than those who don’t.

We borrowed the measure of this “sense of community” from the studies done in Detroit on neighborhood communities and found that the same six descriptors that were used to define neighborhoods could also be used to define the classroom. In the weeks to come, I’ll share with you what those variables are, and give you some ideas about how they can be strengthened in the classroom. The real bonus, though, should come from readers’ sharing their own experiences of these characteristics and ways they’ve learned to create a sense of community. Just let me know if these issues are relevant in your own life.    

If you are a student, a teacher or former teacher, or if you have a child or grandchild in school (any level) would you please vote “yes” on the ballot at the right? And if none of those apply, just vote “no.” That way I’ll know how to tell “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say. Thanks. PS Also, leave comments below about this or any other topic.


  1. I love the idea of a classroom as a community. Have either you or Kathy read "To Know as We are Known: Education as a spiritual journey"?

    This book rocked my educational socks off. I wish he was a bit more pragmatic, but the vision he sets is spot on.

  2. No, I haven't read that book yet. However, it was also recommended to be by somebody else (maybe it was you?). It sounds as though I should read it, so here I go over to Amazon to check it out. Thanks for the suggestion.