Classroom Environment Analogous To A Small Business Meeting

Creating an effective classroom environment is vital to achieving course motivation and productivity as well as the respect you deserve as a professor.  The slide I use during my first lecture to create an expectation that our classroom environment will parallel a small business meeting, is provided as a FREE Attachment. I cover up the four points and ask the students the following question:

“You are attending an important small project meeting during your first real-world job; what would your supervisor expect of you?”

Hopefully the students mention most of the following four points eventually. These four points form an important base understanding of what class room behavior I expect:

  • Be Punctual. Early Actually
  • Contribute/Participate
  • Be Prepared
  • Be Attentive

For the remainder of this article I am either sharing the key points I cover in class or how I incorporate other classroom management techniques to support these four behavior expectations.

Be Punctual. Early Actually

There is little tolerance in the business world for arriving late as you lose a lot of respect and credibility. Becoming disciplined is important as an undergraduate. Students do have control over their schedules and if you create an expectation to arrive on time you can achieve high levels of punctuality. Students arriving late are very disruptive and repeated offenses show disrespect. My great-uncle, Joe Rosenberg, who gave Walt Disney his first loan, had a saying, “People who are late are inconsiderate as they value their time more than other people’s time.” Often professors wait to start class five to ten minutes late which only condones tardiness. My students know that I start class immediately at the scheduled start time.

In conjunction with focusing classroom time on teaching application and holding students responsible for content, I give unannounced quizzes that can occur in up to half the classes. Students arriving late to class are obviously at a disadvantage and this further creates an incentive for being punctual. I inform the students that I will hand out quizzes five minutes before official starting time of class. The quizzes are designed to be completed with ease within the stated ten-minute period. Arriving early from a quiz incentive standpoint, to get more time creates an important discipline of arriving at least five minutes early to most events.

There are important administrative functions to conduct either prior to or within the first five minutes of class including:

  1. Picking up graded weekly assignments and quizzes in gusset folders alphabetically organized.
  2. Picking up current day handouts: lecture slides and weekly assignments

Students arriving early or at least on time allow the administrative activities not to consume too much valuable lecture time. During the first five minutes of class I allow the students to continue to pick up graded assignments and handouts while I cover administrative issues. This gets the lecture going on time, but avoids having students miss being at their seats for vital lecture material.

Creating the expectation of being punctual allows full class time utilization consistent with one of the course core values: “Treat class time as precious. There are only 38 hours of class time in semester; less than one standard work week.”

These approaches have been effective in creating punctuality. However, if I still have issues, I consider announcing a policy that any students more than five minutes late will not receive current day handouts and need to get a copy made from their fellow students. This may sound a little harsh; however, the occurrence of immature students can be significant in some classes.

Contribute/Participate

In the workplace it is vital to contribute as it creates self-esteem and impresses your peers and supervisor(s).
Many undergraduates do not have the experience and self-confidence to speak effectively in front of others. The classroom is a great opportunity to cultivate the ability to speak effectively in a small group meeting environment. The pressure of speaking in front of their peers and professor very much resembles the anxieties that they will have in the workplace at a small group meeting.

Too often the same small percentage of students participates in class. I try to motivate students to contribute by allocating 3% of their overall grade to class participation. In order to get a strong class participation grade, students need to: (i) respond when I randomly call on them, and (ii) most importantly, initiate questions and discussion.

Be Prepared

To contribute in a small business meeting you need to be prepared. To impress your peers and supervisor(s), reading and truly understanding any materials previously distributed is paramount.

In addition to developing this important discipline during their undergraduate program, preparation of assigned reading materials is vital for a professor to effectively focus classroom time on teaching application and holding students responsible for content. I force the issue of students being prepared by giving the students unannounced quizzes.

Be Attentive

The workplace does not tolerate someone not being attentive during a small business meeting. What would your supervisor think of you if he noticed you were:

  • Distracted and not giving the current speaker your attention including direct eye contact
  • Looking down under the table and guessed that you were texting or emailing someone on your cell phone
  • Looking like you were about to doze off or worst yet, having your head leaning to the side
  • Reading something else that wasn’t related to the meeting

Professors deserve each student’s full attention, especially if they come prepared to fully engage students. Creating the expectation of full attentiveness is vital to an engaged classroom. Inattentive students can be very distracting to your classroom environment and also undermine your authority. I am a very congenial and humorous professor; however, student inattentiveness is something I do not tolerate. I have a very strict “resting” policy in my student syllabus under expected classroom etiquette.

Propelling Forward Important Work Ethic Ingredients during Undergraduate Years

The classroom should be modeled after a small business meeting environment which mandates being punctual, being prepared, contributing and being attentive. Students do have control over all these vital work habits if professors create high expectations and have consequences for non-compliance. It is vital during college years to develop and reinforce these important work habits that are expected in the business world.

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