CPD Briefing: Classroom Culture



A classroom will always have a culture; the question is who sets it? Research shows that the culture of the classroom has a significant impact on how well students learn, students ability to participate and students wellbeing. Indeed Gary Phillips states that learning can only happen in a positive culture.

“School culture is the set of norms, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the ‘persona’ of the school,” says Dr. Kent D. Peterson

There is a great deal written about approaches to the classroom culture but I think it is helpful to think of two key areas:

  • Physical Environment
  • Emotional Environment

Physical Environment

  • General ambiance
    • Messy/Tidy?
    • Clean?
  • Desk Arrangement/Student placements
    • Grouped – places priority on collaboration
    • Straight lines – places priority on independent work
    • Where do you place students who tend to distract?
  • Classroom Decoration
    • Students like to see their own work and class displays
    • Class made posters help promote belonging

Emotional Environment

It is the teachers responsibility to value each and every one of the students in their class, so that each student feels special and important: Groundwater – Smith)

  • Meeting Special Needs
    • ADHD – Students need extra motivation so they can maintain attention – avoid boring and repetitive tasks
    • Aspergers – Needs consistency and safety
  • Students need to know and like you to learn effectively
    • Who are you?
    • What do you stand for?
    • What will you ask them to do?
    • What will you not ask them to do?
    • What you will do for them?
    • What you will not do for them? (Glasser, 1993, 32)
  • Strategies
    • Greet students by name
    • Make eye contact
    • Negotiate rules and routine
    • Acknowledge positive behaviours
    • Use positive language
    • Minmise embarrassment
    • Use humour

Prompt Questions

What does your classroom say about your:
Attitude to the students?
Attitude to learning?

What do you to create a positive emotional environment?


Further Reading





32 Ideas