Creating a Positive Teaching Environment

Author: Dalhousie University, Centre for Learning and Teaching

Building a successful teaching environment depends on both the teacher and the student; however, the initial responsibility for achieving this state falls on the teacher — the individual perceived by the student as the expert, the figure of authority, or the leader within the relationship. The leadership position must be utilized, not abused, such that a mutual respect builds between teacher and student. This relationship cannot be established instantly or with ease but requires hard work, a genuine interest in teaching, and a concern for others.

There are some general suggestions worthy of consideration as one engages in the teaching enterprise.

The first step is to forget that you are a student — you are now the teacher; but do not forget what it is like to be a student. Remembering the first time you entered a laboratory or stood in front of a tutorial group will help you appreciate students’ problems. This advice is probably useful for all teachers.

The second suggestion is to have realistic expectations of students. Most students are ambitious: they want to succeed, and they will respond to the challenges you present. Those students who truly don’t care, and there are always some, can only be encouraged to the extent they allow. If they are not in the class or laboratory, you cannot help; but when an opportunity occurs, you should encourage them.

The final general comment is to remember your favorite teachers and what you liked about them; then try to behave in the same manner. You may be surprised by how good it feels to have a positive impact on your students.