Classroom Climate and Culture | Center for Transformative Teaching (2024)

Classroom climate refers to the atmosphere of a classroom including the social, emotional, and physical aspects of a learning space. The moods, attitudes, and tone of instructor-student and student-student interactions in a classroom culminates in the overall classroom climate. Additionally, both intentional and unintentional actions and explicit and implicit messages add to the classroom climate. To cultivate a positive classroom climate, instructors need to build strong rapport with students (Barr 2016) by incorporating seven dimensions of classroom climate (Fraser and Treagust 1986).

Seven Dimensions of Classroom Climate

  1. Personalization – Students know the instructor sees them as individuals and cares about their well-being and success.
  2. Involvement – All students are actively invited to participate in the class resulting in an inclusive learning environment.
  3. Student Cohesiveness – Students are encouraged to know and work with their peers during class activities to build a sense of community.
  4. Satisfaction – Students find value in and enjoy coming to class.
  5. Task Orientation – Students find class activities to be worthwhile, well-organized, and clearly aligned to learning objectives/goals and expectations.
  6. Innovation – Activities and assignments are designed using pedagogical best-practices. Students understand why the instructor is using these activities and assignments (explicit statements by instructor on why students are doing specific tasks).
  7. Individualization – Students are given autonomy/choice for some aspects of the class which allows them to develop/explore areas that are interesting to them.

Fortunately, most of these aspects of classroom climate can be developed by the instructor using a few basic strategies.

Building Classroom Culture

There are three strategies that aid in creating a positive classroom climate and culture:

  1. open, warm communication,
  2. inclusive environment, and
  3. organization and accessibility of course content.


Communication is key to building a positive and inviting classroom culture. Therefore, the first steps to building a strong community include providing information to students before the start of the semester. For example, publishing the Canvas course and posting a pre-course welcome announcement provides students with information they need while also showing that you care about their success in the course. Along the same lines, creating a syllabus that invites students to the course and explains course expectations in an inclusive manner promotes a positive climate before the course begins. At the beginning of term, it is also important to greet students, learn students’ names, get to know your students, share enthusiasm for the course/topic, and explicitly state that you believe all students can learn by normalizing academic struggles and sharing personal accounts on how effort resulted in positive outcomes. It is also highly recommended to allow students time to get to known each other as student-student interactions can be critical to the learning environment (Barr 2016).

Once established, it is important to continue to provide clear and timely communication with students. A few strategies for maintaining good communication include responding in a timely manner to student questions (whether in-person, via email, or using another method), fostering open discourse through open ended questions and class discussions, and providing students with prompt feedback. Additionally, communicating concern for students that are not doing well in the course creates positive culture (Barr 2016) and can be accomplished with an in-person meeting, an individual email, or through the Canvas LMS (using the “Message Students Who” option in the gradebook). By using these strategies throughout the semester, you convey interest in students’ ideas and provide students with the information/means to succeed in your course.

Inclusive Environment

To ensure a positive classroom climate, a course must provide an inclusive environment where all students feel safe and empowered to learn. Creating an inclusive environment begins with the implementation of inclusive course content. Inclusive course content includes using materials that accurately represent the diversity of ideas, perspectives, and people within your content area. But inclusivity is more than just content. It also requires creating safe spaces and opportunities for individuals to contribute to the class. Thus, instructors need to provided students with multiple methods of learning by using a variety of instructional strategies, allowing students to participate in different ways, and providing students with options on assignments and other aspects of their learning. The Center for Transformative Teaching has a newly constructed Inclusive Course Checklistthat provides further details on how to create a more inclusive classroom.

Organization and Accessibility of Course Content

A chaotic and unorganized course design will inherently be difficult to learn in and thus make it difficult for a positive classroom climate to be achieved. Therefore, instructors need to organize course content to be easily located within Canvas using modules and other structuring to consistently place information, files, assignments, quizzes, and other required and supplemental resources. Additionally, due dates and other important information should be associated with each assignment or assessment to ensure students know and meet these expectations. Outside of course content and assignments, specialized resources that support students should be placed in easy to locate places within Canvas for students to reference when needed.

These support services include student health (including mental health) services, tutoring services (writing and math centers as well as discipline specific services), disability support services, student housing, and many more. The Center for Transformative Teaching has a Canvas module that contains this information and can be imported into your Canvas course [to import the newest version of this module, go to Canvas, then select Common from the left side menu; on the Common’s site search for “Eyde Olson” and the select “Canvas Orientation and Student Resources”, then import/download (blue button on right) to add to your course]. When instructors create well organized courses, students know the instructor has their best interests in mind which aids in creating a positive class climate.

In addition to a well-organized course, all course materials need to be accessible to all students. Digital accessibility requires more than just adding a file to a course. The file also needs to be created in a manner that allows students with different abilities to have equal access to these files. For example, videos need to have accurate captioning, documents need to have heading and other structures added, and images need alternative text. The Center for Transformative Teaching has an Essential Accessibility Checklist (Accessibility Checklist | Center for Transformative Teaching ( and Accessibility/UDL Resource (Making Course Material More Accessible : CTT Accessibility/UDL Resource ( to help you improve the accessibility of your course content. Alternatively, a new “Digital Accessibility Training” is available through Bridge (, then select the red button labeled “NU Bridge Learning Portal” and search for the course using the title) that includes information and videos showing how to make digital content more accessible.

Building a positive classroom climate and culture is essential for student learning. Student motivation and self-efficacy are positively affected by a supportive classroom climate (Wang et al. 2020). Additionally, student learning has been shown to increase when classroom climate is supportive and positive (Falsario et al. 2014, Persson 2015). And since an instructor’s perceptions of a student’s abilities and attitudes directly influences the classroom climate (Alonso-Tapia and Ruiz-Diaz 2022), it is imperative for instructors to develop strategies that create a supportive and healthy classroom climate.

Additional Resources


Alonso-Tapia, J and Ruiz-Diaz, M (2022). Student, teacher, and school factors predicting differences in classroom climate: a multilevel analysis. Learning and Individual Differences, 94: DOI:

Barr, JJ (2016). Developing a Positive Classroom Climate. IDEA Paper #61.

Falsario, HN, Muyong, RF, and Nuevaespana JS (2014). Classroom climate and academic performance in education students. DLSU Research Congress.

Fraser, BJ and Treagust, DF (1986). Validity and use of an instrument for assessing classroom psychological environment in higher education. Higher Education, 15:37-57.

Persson, M (2015). Classroom Climate and Political Learning: Findings from a Swedish panel study and comparative data. Political Psychology, 36:587-601.

Wang, Q, Lee, KCS and Hoque KE (). The effect of classroom climate on academic motivation mediated by academic self-efficacy in a higher education institute in China. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research, 19:194-213.


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Classroom Climate and Culture | Center for Transformative Teaching (2024)
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