Developing climates for learning

With 4As Course Design, we begin by thinking about atmosphere – who is gathered together, where they are in their learning processes, and where they venture as learners during, after, and beyond this course. The “we” who come to learning spaces as teachers - and as learners - bring expectations also about what and who matters, about how learning should or could happen, or about what roles and responsibilities the players in this learning space should or might take on.

As instructors we can survey two domains to understand the atmospheres that provide contexts for our teaching and for student learning: 1) the university, departments, fields, and learning spaces linked to our courses, and 2) the communities, cultures, and purposes that our broad range of students bring into the classrooms we create with them.

In this, we consider the aspirational and operational norms explicitly or tacitly informing teaching and learning. In working to understand contexts and norms, we can begin to discern and describe the roles of learners and teachers, and our shared responsibilities as people who create and sustain course learning climates.

Video resources


Attend to atmosphere through development of personal, social, and instructional roles and responsibilities.

Create respectful classroom climates for learning

Conversation with Ken Leopold, UMTC Distinguished Teaching Professor, Chemistry, with focus on creating respectful classroom climates for learning.

Plan connections

Conversation with Bob Poch, UMTC Distinguished Teaching Professor, Curriculum and Instruction, focusing on the need to plan for student-student, student-content, and student-teacher connections.

Review planning resources

  • Atmosphere: Learning Context Factors to Consider - a reflective planning document with springboard questions for assessing community, institutional, disciplinary, teacher and student contexts that can impact course design
  • Creating Community in the Classroom - a guide for instructors developed by Emily Ehlinger, a Disability Resource Center (UMTC) consultant whose research focuses on inclusion and accessibility
  • 7 Core Skills for Accessibility - create an accessible climate for learning by learning and using the 7 skills that provide a foundation for creating accessible, usable digital course materials and resources.