Proactive Classroom Management Strategies

Have you ever wondered about ways to improve your approach to classroom management? First and foremost, classroom management is about relationships. Students are better able to learn when the classroom is an environment of mutual respect — both between instructor and students, and among classmates as peers. Proactive classroom management strategies focus on building trust and connection, making expectations clear, and effectively preventing classroom disruptions before they arise (Cook et al., 2018; Watson & Ecken, 2018; Wubbels et al., 2014).

Reflect, Connect, Expect, Respect

Every instructor brings to the classroom their own unique teaching style, priorities, and values. Below are four sets of proactive strategies with suggestions and evidence-based resources to help you manage the learning environment in your course, whether in a face-to-face classroom or in an online setting. 

StrategiesSupporting Resources
Reflect — Begin with Reflection: Values, Biases, and Needs
  • Reflect on your teaching philosophy and identify your teaching values and priorities. How do your values fit with your expectations for student behaviour?1
  • Reflect on your bias and privilege. How does your social location affect how students interact with you?1 Reflect on the ways you want to create community in your course.2
  • Reflect on your needs and boundaries in teaching. What level of personal disclosure are you comfortable with? What modes of contact and what times will work best for you for student questions and meetings?3
  • Consider the social locations of your students. Who has to work the hardest to have their voices heard and taken seriously?1,4
  • Ask students to reflect on the unconscious biases that they bring to the classroom.1,5
  1. PDF: Anti-Racist Discussion Pedagogy
  2. Handout: Creating Community in your Remote Course
  3. Tips for Maintaining Boundaries while Teaching
  4. Video: Teaching ALL Students
  5. Video: Unconscious Bias
Connect — Connection helps students share their needs
  • Create a sense of your presence by telling students a little about yourself. In an online course, you could include a personal biography and a photo or video.1,2,3
  • Consider creating a Discussion Forum for student introductions and ask informal questions to encourage connection.4
  • In smaller classes, consider inviting students to meet with you, either individually or in small groups, at the beginning of the semester.5
  • In larger classes, consider surveying students about their needs early in the semester. Invite them to tell you about themselves, and follow up to see what accommodations or alternatives they may need.6,7
  • Consider beginning class with a check-in to get a sense of students’ wellbeing. You can then adjust activities to better meet students’ needs for the day.
  • Consider weekly check-ins with students via email. When posting Announcements in Brightspace, ‘Video Notes’ can be used to give a stronger sense of your presence.8,9
  • Office hours can be held online in person or virtually, using Brightspace’s Online Rooms, Webex, or Navigate tools.1
  • Give students a variety of options to connect to their classmates and to you, to respect differing needs for privacy.10,11
  1. Communication and Engagement Resource
  2. Instructor Presence in an Online Classroom
  3. Handout: Creating Community in your Remote Course
  4. Using the Discussion tool in Brightspace
  5. Using the Groups tool in Brightspace
  6. Using the Survey tool in Brightspace
  7. Memorial’s Student Technology Survey for Fall 2020
  8. Using the Announcements tool in Brightspace
  9. Using the Video Note tool in Brightspace
  10. Privacy in Remote Teaching
  11. Memorial’s Privacy Policy
Expect — Communicate expectations clearly, early, and frequently
  • At the beginning of term, consider having students work together to create a value statement and statement of behaviour expectations for the syllabus.1
  • Provide students with clear guidance on how and when they can contact you, and how long they may expect to wait for a response.1
  • Ensure that your syllabus clearly lays out a schedule and your expectations for the semester.1
  • Speak directly with students about academic integrity, its importance, and invite them to come to you if they are encountering difficulties in completing an assessment.2
  • Provide students with clear communication guidelines for discussions.4,5
  • Before the semester begins, take the time to plan how you will de-escalate conflict that may arise in class.4
  1. Memorial’s Course Syllabus Requirements
  2. CITL’s Academic Integrity resource
  3. Memorial Libraries’ Academic Integrity resource
  4. Anti-Racist Discussion Pedagogy
  5. Netiquette
Respect — Mutual respect is the foundation of classroom management
  • Greet or call students by name whenever possible. You can check with students individually to confirm correct pronunciation and preferred name.
  • When you introduce yourself, include your pronouns and invite students to share their pronouns.
  • Consider providing a territory acknowledgement with context for what doing this means for students in your course.1,2
  • Educate yourself about decolonizing university teaching, and consider consulting with the Indigenous Education Specialist about ways to decolonize your course.3
  • Offer choice to students, such as a variety of options for assessments, whenever possible.4,5
  • Provide a transcript or closed-captioning for video lectures. 4,5
  • Learn more about the principles of Universal Design of Learning and how they can be incorporated into your teaching.6,7
  • Consider flexible instruction strategies for students who are unable to attend class in person.8
  • Consider building in breaks, in both remote and in-person classrooms.9
  • Keep in mind that behaviours such as fidgeting or using devices in class may be coping strategies that allow students to learn.9
  • Provide information to students on supports available at Memorial.10,15-17
  1. Territory Acknowledgement for Memorial’s Corner Brook and St. John’s Campuses
  2. Territory Acknowledgements, Significance, Protocols, and Criticisms
  3. Pulling Together: A Guide for Indigenization of Post-Secondary Institutions for Teachers and Instructors
  4. Accessible Remote Teaching Guidelines
  5. Memorial’s Accessibility Policy
  6. Embedding the Principles of UDL into Course Instruction
  7. Use Universal Design
  8. Flexible Instruction
  9. Video: Teaching ALL Students
  10. MUN Student Life
  11. Trans and Gender Diverse Student Guide
  12. Indigenous Student Resource Centre
  13. Accessibility Services at Memorial
  14. Memorial University’s Libraries
  15. Student Life: Resources for Students
  16. Academic Success Centre


  • Cook, C. et al. (2018) Cultivating Positive Teacher–Student Relationships: Preliminary Evaluation of the Establish–Maintain–Restore (EMR) Method, School Psychology Review, 47:3, 226–243, DOI: 10.17105/SPR-2017-0025.V47-3
  • Watson, M. & Ecken, L. (2018). Learning to trust: attachment theory and classroom management. New York, NY: Oxford University.
  • Wubbels, T. et al. (2014). Teacher-Student Relationships and Classroom Management. Handbook of Classroom Management, 2nd ed. Emmer, E. & Sabornie, E. (eds.) New York, NY: Routledge.

Additional Resources

Resource created by Julie T.