Early in the semester, ask students to brainstorm ideas about how best to conduct classroom interaction.

  • Explain that you want students to take responsibility for their own learning, including being responsible classroom participants.

  • Write their ideas on the board or project ideas using the document camera.

  • Write every idea, even if it isn’t something you want to include, in the list. At this point, this is a brainstorming exercise, not consensus formation. Examples might include:

    • No interrupting.

    • One person cannot speak a second time until another person speaks.

    • Debate is a healthy and important part of learning.

    • Debate does not include personal or offensive comments.

    • Cell phones, tablets, and laptops can only be used for educationally appropriate reasons. Appropriate use of laptops does not include web surfing or reading email. 

  • Offer a few ideas of your own.

  • After class, write all the ideas on a piece of paper. Later, select ten or so that you think are most important and useful. Add any that are critical but were not mentioned during class.

  • At the beginning of the next class, hand out copies of this framework for classroom interaction and post this to the course ICON site. Emphasize that this is the framework that they created and that everyone will be expected to abide by it. Ask them to keep the copy in their course notebooks.

Creating such a framework can be a powerful message to students that you expect them to take responsibility for their own actions, their individual learning, and the creation of an interactive learning community. At some point during the semester, it’s likely that you or a student will refer to these guidelines to redirect discussion that has gone awry or to diffuse a tense situation.