Have you ever considered how engaging, warm, and high-achieving classrooms aren’t all that different from successful businesses?
What makes companies like Google, Southwest Airlines, and many others so successful? It’s not just about the tasks employees complete by the end of each day or the skills they learn to keep the cogs moving. It’s about the complex human beings and their personalities that help make businesses great.
The same goes for your classroom. Successful classrooms are about students, their personalities, and how they interact with one another. Many people tend to emphasize the hard skills and the necessary knowledge as crucial to academic or career success. However, it’s important that we highlight our students’ personalities and the other not-so-easily measured skills they have, too. How might we go about doing this?
Norms are mutually agreed-upon expectations for shared behavior. For example, it’s fine for students to have drastically different ways of completing tasks. What matters isn’t necessarily the work style—exceptional results can come from many ways of working—as long as the class is okay with how things are done. Allow your students to come to their own agreements on how they complete their assignments, and the classroom will only grow stronger and closer. Creating norms is an opportunity for the different personalities in the class to come together and establish shared meaning.
Feedback is a two-way street.
Although it can be scary, critical feedback—between students, as well as between students and teachers—is necessary to building a great classroom. An effective group depends on each person stepping back and (tactfully) questioning the ideas of others and challenging each other to try different approaches, methods, and ways of thinking. (Of course, feedback needs to focus on the work, not the person; you don’t want your students feeling undervalued or attacked). Consider including a norm about feedback and how it can be given in order to promote growth and development.
Inclusion is what helps students feel valued and empowered. This might include using Talking Chips (#6 on this list) so that each student has the opportunity to speak the same number of times during a discussion (and roughly the same amount of time). Students can practice their active listening skills instead of just thinking about what they might say next. After all, the best recipes include many different flavors, even those that might not seem like they go together. Give each student the opportunity to have an equal voice, and you’ll see their personalities shine as your classroom becomes a richer environment.