The classroom environment is one of the most important factors affecting student learning. Simply put, students learn better when they view the learning environment as positive and supportive (Dorman, Aldridge, & Fraser, 2006). A positive environment is one in which students feel a sense of belonging, trust others, and feel encouraged to tackle challenges, take risks, and ask questions (Bucholz & Sheffler, 2009). Such an environment provides relevant content, clear learning goals and feedback, opportunities to build social skills, and strategies to help students succeed.
We all know the factors that can threaten a positive classroom environment: problems that kids bring from home, lack of motivation among students whose love of learning has been drilled right out of them, pressures from testing, and more. We can’t control all these factors, but what if we could implement some simple strategies to buffer against their negative effects?
The good news is that we can. We can foster effective learning and transform the experience of our students every day by harnessing the power of emotions. If you’re already objecting that you don’t have time for that kind of thing, don’t worry: I’m not talking about holding a daily class meeting to talk about feelings. The strategies I offer in this publication can be easily integrated into your instruction. What’s more, they are not a luxury or a frill: we ignore the power of emotions at our peril. When we dismiss the effects—both positive and negative—that emotions have on learning, we make our jobs much harder for ourselves.