A Supportive Classroom Environment

A supportive and equitable environment in all classrooms serves as a platform for all academic, social and emotional learning. At the core of a supportive classroom is a caring, engaging teacher who establishes authentic trusting relationships with each student.

Fundamentally as every teacher knows this job of education is a human one. It is about relationships...When teachers are able to prioritize relationships and focus on the quality of their connections with kids, we see over and over again the teachers feeling more effective and the kids being more engaged, learning more and feeling more effective.

-Robert Pianta in Creating Opportunities through Relationships (COR)

The role of an SEL team, then, is to foster these supportive relationships and classrooms to ensure deep learning and sustained implementation of SEL. Your school may choose to adopt an evidence-based SEL program that provides specific guidance and activities for creating supportive classroom environments. (See the CASEL Program Guides for a list of evidence-based programs.) Not all evidence-based programs address supportive classroom environments, and you may choose to supplement your program with additional structures for teachers to build supportive environments.

As you work on fostering supportive classroom environments, use the rubric or the questions below to identify areas for continuous improvement: 

Do teachers use inclusive, relationship-centered, and culturally responsive practices to create supportive classroom environments?

Are classroom community-building strategies developmentally appropriate?

Do classrooms cultivate an environment that supports, honors, and acknowledges the cultural assets, contributions, and needs of all students?

Are shared agreements collaboratively developed, consistently modeled by adults and students, and woven into daily routines and practices?

Based on your responses, you can use the guidance and resources in this section to collaborate with teachers on creating a supportive classroom environment through:

  • Building a strong sense of community.
  • Creating structures that foster belonging and emotional safety.
  • Establishing student-centered discipline practices that promote SEL.
Community-Building CTA Arrow Belonging and Emotional Safety CTA Arrow Student-Centered Discipline CTA Arrow

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Teacher Small Group Discussion Guide: Building a Supportive Learning Environment

This tool provides readings, individual and group reflection questions, and activities for small groups to discuss and support each other to implement practices that strengthen learning environments.

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