University professors often consider three factors when planning their instruction, and they prioritize them accordingly: 1) content, 2) delivery, 3) classroom climate. Research in neuroscience and learning reveals that all three are equally important, and that, in fact, content will not be mastered without establishing a positive, productive classroom climate, and using effective strategies to deliver content. In other words, content and skill acquisition don’t effectively happen for students without intentional planning for the other two factors. Of the three, classroom community often gets the least attention.
According to Tchudi & Mitchell (1999), “Too often the affective domain . . . is pooh-poohed and dismissed as nonessential." Palmer and Zajonc (2010), in their book, “The Heart of Higher Education,” explain that, “Academic culture has long made a false distinction between the ‘hard’ virtues of scholarship and the ‘soft’ virtues of community, putting the first in the hands of the faculty and the second in the hands of the office of student life. In truth, the soft virtues and the hard virtues go hand in hand when it comes to good pedagogy” (p. 30). In his book, “What the Best College Instructors Do,” Bain (2004) reported that of the instructors he examined, the most successful ones intentionally attended to classroom climate and building a community of learners. These instructors “generally had a strong sense of commitment to the academic community and not just to personal success in the classroom. They saw their own efforts as a small part of a larger educational enterprise, rather than as an opportunity to display personal prowess. In their minds, they were mere contributors to a learning environment that demanded attention from a fellowship of scholars.” (p. 20). Teaching and learning success resides in the “commitment on the part of the faculty to building and sustaining a community of learners. At its core, such a community is defined by engagement, by commitment of faculty and students to sustaining the community and its conversations.” (p. 176).
First Day of Class