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Building a Positive Classroom Community

Meeting the Needs of All Students

  • Classroom community creates a place in which students feel cared about and are encouraged to care about each other
  • This is key to civic engagement and contributing to creating a more caring world

Why is Classroom Community Important?

Care more deeply about their peers

Better manage conflict resolution

Think more positively & enthusiastivally about their academic learning

  • According to Piaget, cooperative relationships are key to moral development
  • Students who experience a sense of belonging in their classroom:

Benefits of Classroom Community

  • Learning readiness is influences by a student's background knowledge and experiences
  • However, learning readiness is also greatly influenced by a student's:
    • Prior learning success & failure
    • Self-esteem
    • Sense of efficacy
    • Cultural norms
    • Social status within the class
    • Life experiences
    • Disposistions & attitudes
    • Habits of mind
  • Educators who know their students deeply consider all these factors and determine individual readiness with greater accuracy, resulting in instruction that more precisely targets a student's optimal zone for learning (Powell & Kusuma-Powell, 2011)

Learning Readiness

Weaving the goal of community through academic instruction

Providing opportunities for varied class-wide and school-wide activities

Building connections between students

Strengthening teacher student relationships

Building Classroom Community

Building classroom community requires:

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Three Challenges to Building Community

Kohn (1996) points to the following practices that are contrary to building authentic caring classroom communities:


Grouping students by ability

Tradiitional discipline

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Building Classroom Community

To build a community, you must create a Caring Classroom Community, which is a place students feel cared about and are encouraged to care about each other.

Students must feel they are valued and respected

Students must feel safe physically and emotionally

Learning should be fun and engaging

  • Constructing an authentic solution
  • Making restitution or repartition meaningful vs punishment
  • Reviewing the resolution and reflect on the outcomes
  • Ensuring flexibility
  • Minimizing the punitive impact
  • Trusting relationship between student & teacher
  • Skills: listening, self de-escalating, generating alternative view points, problem-solving
  • Diagnosing what's happening
  • Questioning one's practice
  • Maximizing student involvement
  • When teachers involve students in problem-solving, they build self-efficacy and increase personal responsibility
  • Solving problems together requires:

Solving Problems Together

  • Throughout the semester, we will build upon our understanding of the community heuristic
  • Therefore, an understanding of the importance of building a classroom community for our students with disabilities is important
  • Teachers often skip this essential step of building community and employ top down methods
  • While reviewing the rest of this presentation, consider the implications of not building a positive learning environment

Community Heuristic




  • Students need to experience:

Developing Classroom Community & A Citizenship Heuristic

  • As students experience Joy, Belonging, and Respect in the classroom, they are able to develop:
    • Self-Control
    • Personal Responsibility
    • Self Advocacy
    • Self-Direction
    • Self-Efficacy
  • The 5 attributes listed above are essential for all students to experience, especially students with disabilities, in order to become productive and contributing members of society

Building the Heuristic

the capacity for producing a desired result or effect

willingness to accept societal standards for individual behavior and make efforts to live by those standards; when individuals fail to meet expected standards, they do blame outside factors.

ability to control oneself, in particular one's emotions and desires or the expression of them in one's behavior, especially in difficult situations

practice of speaking and acting on behalf of ones selves and the ability to control one’s own affairs


ability to determine and set goals to achieve one’s goals


Self Advocacy

Personal Responsibility


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Defining a Heuristic

  • Attributes are developmental and sequential. Students who do not have self-control cannot exhibit personal responsibility, self-advocacy, or self-direction. Therefore, to build a student’s self-efficacy, teachers must begin at the students’ developmental level
  • Creating a learning environment in which all students are contributing members allows students to experience belonging, feel their ideas are respected, and experience joy. This facilitates the development of the 5 attributes which will ensure they become contributing members of society

Understanding the Heuristic

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