Leigh Uhlir

Assistant Professor, School of Hospitality Management
Faculty Member, Center for Teaching and Learning

Our Stance

To create a nurturing classroom environment an instructor must focus on social, emotional and educational needs of the student.  The instructor must begin to build a relationship with the students from the start.  The relationship can be built with a few key strategies in mind:
  • Learn about your students
  • Reduce the power differential between instructor and student
  • Keep open communication

Learn about your students

It is not just about knowing their name but learning how to pronounce their name and doing this in the first week.  Make it a top priority to repeat their name when students ask questions, have comments, and greet them by name as they enter the room.  There are many first week introductory games that build on learning about your students not only as an individual but also as a student.  You should also have your students learn about their instructor. A great game to do this is asking students to interview you. This allows the student to decided what they would like to know about you.  This strategy will help build the emotional need of the relationship.

Reduce the power differential between instructor and student

Providing students with choices throughout the learning experience allows the objectives to be met and shifts the focus (power) to the student to build on the social need of the relationship. This will motivate the students to learn the content and connects them to the learning process. Using a flipped classroom approach the instructor is able to have the students bring in their own activities, shared experiences, and even test questions. Letting your students know that you were once a student and giving them tips on how you learn best will open up dialogue to have the student share how they learn best.  The insider scoop is a way to connect with students giving them secrets in how to study, how to be a better student and making them feel special like sharing a well kept secret.

Keep open communication

Being in-tuned with your classroom environment and keeping an open-mind on student suggestions to the learning process shows that you can be flexible and adapt to the student’s educational needs. This also works in having students be able to communicate with you on why they might be struggling with completing assignments. This does not mean that you can’t have rules and policies in place but listening to student’s challenges allows the student to discuss and work out possible solutions. The second step to this strategy is to follow up with the student on their communication. This could be a simple conversation on how they recovered from an illness, or death of a family member or a challenging problem to the content. The follow up shows that the communication is not a one-way street but an open continuing dialogue.