Characteristics of an Effective Classroom

How to tell if a classroom is well-managed

How can you tell if you have an effective and well-managed classroom? Following is a list of key indicators that you are in a classroom that would be the most conducive to learning.

Clear Rules and Expectations

Classroom expectations should be clear to all students.

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Involving students in developing classroom expectations or rules can help them to understand better the reasons behind expectations as well as increase their sense of ownership and the likelihood that they will more likely follow them.

There is research on how to develop classroom expectations with students so that they are

  • reasonable and necessary,
  • clear and understandable,
  • consistent with instructional goals,
  • aligned with learning practices,
  • consistent with school expectations.

The resulting classroom rules should be clear and concise and posted in the room. Once they are posted, teachers and support staff should enforce rules consistently and fairly.

Access to discipline plans should also be made clear to students. Students should understand the consequences for not following the classroom rules.

Many teacher evaluation plans make a connection to classroom expectations. Some criteria may determine teacher effectiveness based on how well students hold themselves and their peers accountable.

Clear Assessments

Students need to understand their teacher's expectations for all tasks, from homework and classwork to tests and projects. Students should also be able to tell anyone visiting the classroom exactly how their work is assessed.

There are many different ways teachers can track student progress: daily charts, weekly updates, monthly progress reports. The grading of any student work should be completed quickly so that students have feedback in order to make improvements.

Directions for all assignments should be clear and concise. Students should be able to tell what skills (ex: reading, editing, speaking) are being assessed for each task. For larger projects, teachers may want to use standard rubrics so that students understand what is expected. The repeated use of a standard rubric can track a student's growth over the school year.

Many teacher evaluation plans make a connection to assessment. Some criteria may determine teacher effectiveness based on how the planning and use of assessment in the classroom.

Efficient Housekeeping

Every day, teachers have to complete daily housekeeping tasks. Ineffective classroom managers are unorganized and the tasks take up too much time. For this reason, teachers must have systems in place for things like daily attendance, tardies, restroom use, access to supplies, homework collection, copies for students and more. By creating these systems up front in a convenient and organized manner and ensuring that students follow them every day, teachers can spend more time on their daily lessons.

An organized classroom allows for better instruction. Students should be independent in the classroom and know where supplies are and where completed work gets submitted. Students should share in the distribution of materials and the clean-up after an activity.

Many teacher evaluation plans make a connection to classroom management and the physical space. Some criteria may determine teacher effectiveness based on how efficient the classroom is organized to serve student learning.

Engaged Students

A classroom with students engaged means learning is taking place. Teachers who are able to have students involved and motivated have the best chance of success.

With today's technology, there are many different ways to engage students in classroom games or interactive websites. But technology is not the only way to engage students. Asking students to become more involved in decision making for their own educational experience can be engaging. For example, students may help create the rubric for a large assignment, design a classroom event, or develop an inquiry project that can be done collaboratively or individually.

Another way to engage and motivate students is by giving them choice when they are completing assignments. For example, in a lesson on the 1960s, students could study the music, the art, the literature, politics during the Vietnam War. They could then present their information through a variety of methods such as a research paper, a magazine, a Powerpoint, or a podcast.

Keeping students engaged is definitely a key factor in a well-managed classroom. Many teacher evaluation plans make a connection to student engagement. Some criteria may determine teacher effectiveness based on how well the teacher engages and maintains that engagement during a lesson.

Student-Centered Learning

In a student-centered classroom, students do not sit passively. They are active participants in their own learning. They are assessed based on their individual needs and their abilities. They are doing most, if not all, of the talking in the classroom. They have the opportunity to work at their own pace and follow their own interests. There is a blend of individual, collaborative, and collective learning. in addition, there are multiple ways student work is assessed in the classroom.

In the student-centered classroom, all the elements of the physical classroom (layout, resources, technology) support independent student learning.

Varied Instructional Strategies

Students are engaged to a greater degree when the instruction is varied. Sticking to one method of delivery is monotonous and should be avoided. Instead, a mix of learning activities to deliver content and develop skills is necessary. The different strategies can include the more traditional whole group discussions to role-playing, from learning stations to kinesthetic exercises. Incorporating think-pair-share includes all students, while journaling is for individual expression. Flex grouping can help meet the needs of diverse learners, while small mixed groups can build a sense of community in the classroom. Varying Instructional strategies can help keep students involved in the curriculum while meeting the needs of those with different learning styles.

Authentic Connections

In the best classrooms, students are able to see the connection between what they are learning about and real life. Students are interested in connecting what they are learning with significant issues in the world, particularly in the areas of science, technology, and social studies. Using inquiry-based learning, students can communicate with experts in the field they are interested in studying. Internships give students an opportunity to have real-world experiences. Writing on blogs, creating podcasts, and making their own public services ads are all ways students can create content that reaches an audience outside of their classroom.

By making these connections, learning becomes much more personal and teachers have a much greater chance of keeping students engaged. Without connections, students often lose focus, complaining that they don't see why they need to learn the topic being taught.