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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 precidence 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

Classroom Conduct Guidelines

Educate yourself about the most up-to-date health guidelines and classroom spacing and set up information.

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). 

Create expectation statements for your syllabus, Canvas, and class communication. 

Fall 2020 Syllabus Statement

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 including:
  •     wearing face masks at all times.
  •     keeping at least 6 feet of distance between you and your classmates.
  •     using of proper handwashing and sanitation procedures.
  •     daily reporting of your Hokie Health on the Hokie Ready app.
  •     staying home if you have any signs of illness or were in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
  • 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 the first day of class and to maintain compliance with those expectations throughout the semester. Here are some recommendations for communicating proactively this fall:

Send at least two Canvas Announcements welcoming students and informing them of expected health and safety expectations: (1) approximately one week before classes start, and (2) the day before your class is set to meet. [Note: with the extended drop/add period, your course roster may change, sending multiple announcements ensures all enrolled students receive early notice of your expectations.]

In your announcement, make it clear that all students attending an in-person class MUST wear a face mask. If the student has a medical reason they cannot wear a mask, they should contact you prior to the first day of class to discuss reasonable accomodations (not to disclose medical details). Accomodations may include: change to an online section of the course, change of schedule, modified modality participation. If the student needs assistance with medical accommodations contact the Dean of Students' Office

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.

Prior to the first day of class, give a syllabus quiz. Include health and safety behavior questions in the syllabus quiz.

Include a picture of yourself (or a pet, or other students) on your Canvas site wearing a mask. Set mask wearing as a norm of behavior with visual cues. 

Step 3: Model behavior and plan for positive student behaviors

Recommendations for the First Day of Class

With proactive communication, you should expect students to arrive to class wearing face coverings and maintaining a safe physical distance. Preparing for those students who missed early communications can help faculty promote healthy behaviors from the first day. Here are a few tips and ideas:

On the door of the classroom, display signage about required face masks. You may want to have disposible face masks available at the door for students who forgot. If students enter the room without a mask, calmly inform the student that they need to go pick up a mask before entering.

        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 following the health procedures and remind them to bring their masks for the next class.

Take time during class to review all 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 in-person classes, 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 comply with health and safety expectations; however, in the case of a student who refuses to comply, the Division of Student Affairs, Student Conduct has developed Education and Enforcement Strategies

Student Conduct recommends a tiered intervention strategy:

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

Contact Student Conduct at or 540-231-3790 if you have questions or concerns.