Strategies for Improving the Classroom Environment

By Finelli, Cynthia J.; Klinger, Allen et al. | Journal of Engineering Education, October 2001 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Strategies for Improving the Classroom Environment

Finelli, Cynthia J., Klinger, Allen, Budny, Dan D., Journal of Engineering Education

Strategies for Improving the Classroom Environment*


This paper describes some strategies for the educator seeking to better his/her classroom effectiveness. It was inspired by one of the technical sessions ofthe 29th Annual IEEE/ASEE Frontiers in Education Conference in which over a dozen experienced college instructors engaged in a roundtable discussion of ways to improve a classroom environment. In this paper, those ideas are discussed and then supplemented with general advice and specific suggestions from the experience of the authors. The paper concludes with a bibliography of related reference material from a wide variety of educational sources.


An increasingly global and technical workplace requires United States colleges and universities to adapt the science and engineering classroom in order to attract and retain a diverse student body. At a national level, various reports-including the American Society for Engineering Education's "Engineering Education for a Changing World"1 and the National Science Foundation's "Restructuring Engineering Education: A Focus on Change"2-have recognized this challenge and have made recommendations to reform science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (SMET) education. Besides describing faculty reward systems and comprehensive change across a college campus, these reports discuss a classroom environment where the process of education is student-centered, which features active learning, and that accommodates students' varied learning styles.

In her monograph, They're Not Dumb, They're Different: Stalking the Second Tier,3 Sheila Tobias echoes these findings. Her work pinpoints some specific classroom characteristics that, if addressed, might help to retain some of the "second tier" students (i.e., those often high achievers who are serious about their learning and career goals but who, for some reason, chose not to pursue science and engineering). In particular, she notes the "classroom culture" of science and the traditional classroom environment and teaching style used. She asserts that many traditional science courses suffer from a lack of community (both between the instructor and the students and among the students themselves) and that many students desire this relationship and are more successful when it is incorporated into the classroom. Other factors that Dr. Tobias identifies as potentially inhibiting student success are the lack of identifiable goals in a course (i.e., the "big picture"), the competitive environment that is sometimes present in science and engineering courses, and the often exclusive problem solving nature of the classroom. She further states that many students would respond better to science if more cooperative and interactive modes of learning were part of the pedagogy, and if scientific knowledge were more closely and explicitly linked to important societal issues.

This paper discusses some practical suggestions for improving the classroom environment, many of which parallel the strategies discussed by Dr. Tobias. The ideas were inspired by a roundtable discussion of over a dozen science and engineering educators at one session of the 29th Annual IEEE/ASEE Frontiers in Education Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. That session led to a follow-up presentation at the 30th Annual IEEE/ASEE Frontiers in Education Conference4 where general advice and specific suggestions from the experience of the authors were used to supplement suggestions from the roundtable discussion. This paper is a further extension of that presentation. Here, strategies for success are categorized into activities that pertain to planning the course and those that concern conducting the course. A bibliography included at the end of this paper could be beneficial to instructors before entering the planning phase or throughout the course duration.


A. Planning the Course

Success in a course comes, in part, from having planned structure.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Strategies for Improving the Classroom Environment


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?