Good classroom management

23 November 2023

Good classroom management enables you to build strong relationships with your students, encourage students to play an active part in their own learning, and also minimises disruptive behaviour from students.

The following classroom management practices will help to engage students. Try some out in your next class, whether it be in-person or online, or a lecture, tutorial or lab. 

Move beyond monologue

A good class session is a dialogue between the teacher and the students. Plan to use interaction – people learn and retain more detail when someone talks with them, not at them. Remember the old adage, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” 

Set a conversational tone

Arrive at the classroom a few minutes early and chat with students. You can break the ice with a comment about current events, a recent news story, or a casual check-in.  

During your class session, have some flexibility in your timeline and approach to be able to respond to students’ questions and comments. 

Get students talking to each other

Talking with their classmates and being called on to share what they have discussed helps students to retain knowledge and explore concepts they do not fully understand. If students are spending some time during your class session writing, also include time for them to talk about their responses with each other.  

Pay attention to your speaking skills

Remember to speak to the students not to your notes, the board, computer screen, document camera or wall. Also use variety in your voice. Try to change volume from forceful to soft, change speed and tempo of speech, pause and be silent (to get attention), enunciate clearly, avoid repeating words or phrases, and avoid using fillers (i.e., umm, okay, uhhh).

Show enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is contagious, so if you can project that into your teaching, it will help your students become enthusiastic about their own learning. Try some of the following: 

  • move freely, naturally, change pace of moving from rapidly to slowly, but avoid pacing back and forth 
  • show a high degree of energy and vitality by being highly demonstrative 
  • be quick to accept, praise, encourage or clarify, nod head when agreeing 
  • try to have an enthusiastic conversation with students rather than talk at them 
  • smile often – be friendly and positive. 
Minimise peer judgment

Fear of peer judgment is a disincentive for many students, particularly in large classes where students fear being embarrassed in front of dozens or even hundreds of their peers. To best deal with student fears of peer judgment, it is critical that teachers promote an environment of trust and mutual respect from the very beginning of a course. In such an environment, students are more likely to feel safe to actively participate in class.  

Encourage questions

When students ask questions, fan those sparks of curiosity into a flame. You want your response to encourage more questions. Responses such as “I’m glad you asked that” or “That’s a good question” are a simple but effective way to encourage students to continue asking questions. Nonverbal responses such as smiling or nodding can also indicate your support of student questions. If appropriate, you might bring a question raised during office hours or after class into the classroom – with or without mentioning the student’s name – for example, “One student asked me an interesting question about . . . “. 

If you find student questions are being dominated by one student or group of students, you can invite other students using comments like “Let’s hear from someone who … [hasn’t shared yet/has a xx background/…]”.  

Remember to have flexibility in your class session schedule to allow for student questions to be asked and answers to be discussed. Not all student questions need to be answered by the teacher – try asking the rest of the class if anyone has a suggestion or comment to make before adding your view.  

Be available

Before your class session, you might walk around the classroom and ask students how things are going. Immediately after your class session, make yourself available to answer questions. Schedule student consultation time and make yourself available during that time and leave the door open. An open door says “Welcome, come on in”. Your students won’t feel like they are interrupting. You can use online forums for student questions and let students know your usual response time to forum posts and emails. 

Learn student names

Although it may seem daunting, it is important to learn as many of your students’ names as you can. When a student talks with you before or after your class session, or asks a question during class, remember to ask their name. Asking individual students to assist you with demonstrations or other equipment in the class can also help you learn their names. Once you have learned some students’ names, make sure to use them. It will not only help you remember but will also show other students that you are interested in learning their names. 


Personalising a course also involves presenting yourself to students as a person rather than just a reader of content and a vessel of knowledge. Consider sharing a personal learning experience. For example, in explaining a challenging part of the course, you might discuss your difficulties in encountering it and learning it for the first time. Humour and showing that you can laugh at yourself can also help establish rapport with students.