Evidence That It Works
A review of effective practices for developing classroom norms—along with other research—suggests that when students are involved in the process of setting classroom norms, they show a greater understanding of and respect for those norms. Making students feel heard, valued, and respected, helps students see the classroom as a fair environment in which they can grow and succeed.
Furthermore, such involvement also seems to enhance students’ ability to present their opinions, respect the opinions of others, assess conflicting views, negotiate, compromise, and find common ground—skills that will allow students to engage more effectively in the larger society.
Why Does It Matter?
Whether tackling a sensitive topic or engaging with general class material, establishing a set of norms to guide student discussion is a great learning opportunity. By having students participate in norm setting, you enable them to think critically about creating a welcoming environment and how to balance competing ideas and feelings in respectful and effective ways. You also enable them to reflect on the pillars of an ethical and caring community and to develop self-awareness, awareness of others and a deeper understanding of fairness and justice, create equity within the classroom, and strengthen classroom belonging.
Further, by holding students accountable to those norms, you support students’ development of essential skills for working on complicated issues in diverse groups. This is especially important for creating an environment where sensitive or charged issues will be discussed. Shared norms begin to build a foundation for safety within a community by setting expectations and accountability, especially in a classroom community.