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Classroom Behavior Strategies

Promoting Healthy and Positive Behaviors in the Classroom
As we welcome students to the classroom during a time when concerns for public health are paramount, a commitment to the health of individuals and our community take precedence in planning the use of classroom space as a healthy learning environment. The past months have revealed the importance of personal health-related behaviors to reduce the spread of the virus to friends, colleagues, and our fellow community members. It takes the will of many individuals to support the health of the whole. In the classroom, faculty and students will need to serve as positive models of healthy behavior in service to others. 

To support the development of a classroom environment in which faculty and students demonstrate best practices for public health, a process of communication, modeling, and accountabililty is recommended.

Steps for implementing and upholding health behaviors

  1. Expect
  2. Communicate
  3. Model
  4. Account for actions

Step 1: Set Clear and Consistent Expectations

Educate yourself about the most up-to-date health guidelines and Classroom Conduct Guidelines.

Reflect on your personal comfort level and anxieties connected to health behaviors in the classroom. Review the Wellness Commitment and consider what behaviors you hope to see in your students that would help you feel safe (these behaviors will help reduce students' anxieties too).  

With the announcement of masking recommended in classrooms, faculty may need to reconsider expectation statements and affirm commitments to the health and well-being of others. Create expectation statements for your syllabus, Canvas, and class communication.

Health and Safety Sample Syllabus Statement (suggested/optional):

Consistent with Virginia Tech’s Principles of Community to “create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all its members: we affirm the inherent dignity and value of every person and strive to maintain a climate for work and learning based on mutual respect and understanding.” In this class, you are welcomed to an in-person learning experience to challenge yourself through connections with the course materials, faculty, and fellow students. Being mindful of ongoing health risks and people's differing health circumstances, I invite you to proactively promote and protect the health and safety of our learning community. When you are engaged in class activities, here are some of the health and safety strategies I encourage you to use: respectful distancing, masking if/when in close contact with others, use of hand sanitizer, placing trash in designated receptacles. If you are feeling unwell, please contact the instructor and follow the course policies for missing class due to illness. If you have any questions about health and safety measures, please contact me.

Sample expectation statements (revise to meet your course needs)

As a student in the class, you should expect:

  • all class participants to uphold Virginia Tech's Principles of Community.
  • to follow health and saftety guidelines for the health of others and our community.

  • all class participants to communicate respectfully with others using language that conveys tolerance, empathy, and compassion.
 

Step 2: Communicate Early and Frequently
Proactive communication with students is important to establish behavioral expectations prior to class and to maintain compliance with those expectations throughout the semester. Here are some recommendations for communicating proactively:

Add health and safety expectations to your syllabus. Frame expectations as the ways in which students are expected to help keep each other and the community safe. Send Canvas Announcements informing students of updates to expected and recommended health and safety behaviors.

If a student has a documented medical condition, they should contact you to discuss reasonable accomodations (not to disclose medical details). If the student needs assistance with medical accommodations contact the Dean of Students' Office.  

Step 3: Model behavior and plan for positive student behaviors
Recommendations for the First Day of Class after a Change in Policies/Procedures

With proactive communication, you should expect students to arrive to class prepared to meet your expectations for supporting a healthy learning environment. Here are a few tips and ideas:

TIP: Tell the student what you WANT THEM TO DO, rather than what you want them NOT TO DO.
TIP
: Direct student behavior using a calm, level voice. Be direct and factual in describing the behavior they should be exhibiting.
TIP
: At the end of class, thank them for respecting others with healthy behaviors and remind them of our committment to community.

Take time during class to review recommendations and expectations. Share why you chose to have in-person class time and why it is important to you and to student learning for everyone to stay healthy and continue with class, as designed.

Show Gratitude for Appropriate Behavior
Appreciate students for using healthy behaviors and taking responsibility for the health and safety of others. Take time during class, as well as through regular electronic communication, to thank students for upholding your expectations for a healthy learning environment.

Step 4: Hold Students Accountable for their Actions
We hope all students will evidence respectful health and safety behaviors consistent the the Principles of Community; however, in the case of a student who refuses to uphold our Principles of Community, the Division of Student Affairs, Student Conduct recommends a tiered intervention strategy:

  • Ask students to change their behavior.
  • Refer to Student Conduct.

Contact Student Conduct at studentconduct@vt.edu or 540-231-3790 if you have questions or concerns.