Make Your Classroom a Community (January 2019 CRT)

[4-minute read] Our 2018-2019 calendar emphasizes developing an understanding & responding to the context of your classroom. We start with an inspirational quote, back it up with research, then provide you with classroom application ideas. Our January 2019 blog post, written by Instructional Designer Virgil McCullough, takes a deeper dive into how to build a classroom culture.

“The more your students feel that they are part of the classroom community, the more likely they are to become connected to the course, the subject, and even the school.” -Sara E. Quay and Russell J. Quaglia, Creating a Classroom Culture that Inspires Student Learning

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What are we talking about when we refer to classroom culture? Merriam-Webster provides a full set of nuanced definitions for “culture.” If you consider a classroom of students a kind of organization then it’s easy to pick the definition and nuance that most closely relates to classroom culture. Classroom culture is “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize an institution or organization.”

A classroom with a shared set of attitudes, values, goals, and practices focused on learning. Sounds highly desirable!

In the context of culturally responsive teaching, establishing and building a positive classroom culture could be characterized as a focused set of applied intentions that are essentially a subset of skills and attitudes used by the culturally responsive teacher. Zaretta Hammond in her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain (p 122) says that the “ultimate goal as culturally responsive teachers is to help dependent learners learn how to learn.” Establishing a positive class culture is part of the culturally responsive teaching environment that helps students learn how to learn.

There can be numerous attributes to foster in the process of creating a positive class culture. One attribute that repeatedly shows up as key in a positive class culture is the attribute of building positive relationships. Building positive relationships between the instructor and students, and between students themselves contributes to more and better connections to the learning environment. This has a high value for the learning process.

Strong scientific evidence demonstrates increased student connection to school promotes: educational motivation, classroom engagement, and improved school attendance.

Given the value of building positive relationships as part of building a classroom culture, what are some of the ways to engender positive teacher-to-student relationships in the classroom?

  1. Learning students names immediately shows that you care about the relationship, which is part of creating a positive classroom culture.
  2. Infusing instructional information with personal experiences/stories adds a personal touch helps foster a culture of trust and acceptance. It “humanizes” the instruction and allows the students to create a connection between themselves and the instructor.
  3. Setting clear and high expectations for performance and engagement using rubrics and classroom guidelines.
  4. Modeling the behavior you want to see, such as acceptance and respect as students offer ideas. The best way to develop classroom culture is by presenting models of what positive interaction looks like, sounds like, and feels like.

Establishing a positive classroom culture allows more students to direct more of their energy toward learning.

What actions or tools you might use to establish a class culture focused on learning? Comment with your ideas below!


To support faculty who are exploring and implementing culturally responsive teaching in their courses, we’ve created a Private Facebook Group to facilitate collegial conversations.

CRTxACC members are encouraged to share resources, experiences, and questions to deepen their understanding of culturally responsive teaching.

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Creating a Classroom Culture that Inspires Student Learning. (2018). Retrieved 3 May 2018, from

Definition of CULTURE. (2018). Retrieved 3 May 2018, from

Hammond, Z. (2015). Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain. London: Corwin.

Wingspread Declaration on School Connections. (2004). Journal Of School Health, 74(7), 233-234. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2004.tb08279.x

Equity Alliance, Culturally Responsive Teaching Matters!
(2018). Retrieved 1 May 2018, from

Montgomery County Public Schools – Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence. (2018). Retrieved 1 May 2018, from

Classroom Culture vs. Classroom Management. (2015). Tchers’ Voice. Retrieved 1 May 2018, from

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