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Reflections on Domain 2: The Classroom Environment

Richelle E. Colucci-Nunn
Drexel University

Reflections on Domain 2: The Classroom Environment
I would argue that, in some ways, the classroom environment is the most critical domain in
Danielsons (2014) framework. Without an environment of respect and rapport, a culture for
learning, a system for managing both the classroom and student behavior, and students being
organized for learning, all the planning and preparation in the world will not support student
learning. In fact, a meta-analysis conducted by Wang, Haertel, and Walberg (2003)
demonstrated that, of 28 categories, classroom management had the most influence on school
learning. I have therefore reflected deeply on how I would meet the criteria of this domain.
I believe that to establish an environment of respect and rapport (component 2a), I must first
model that behavior myself all day, every day, in every interaction with students and with
colleagues. As teachers, we must be mindful of the metaphoric proverb Little pitchers have big
ears. Our behavior, even when especially when we think we are not being observed, sets the
bar for student interaction and behavior.
I would also establish routines to help me get to know my students from a perspective
beyond the boundaries of school, and for their peers to learn this information as well. Getting-to-
know-you activities traditionally held at the beginning of the year are a great way to start this
process, but to demonstrate a continued personal interest in my students, I would adopt my
cooperating teachers routine of a Monday Journal, in which the children write about their
weekend activities.
Not only does this strategy help manage potentially chatty Monday mornings, it also provides
me with an authentic opportunity to connect with the children as they read me their finished
journal entry and describe their journal illustration to me. I truly enjoy this weekly one-on-one
time with every child, and from the way their eyes light up as they answer the questions I ask
them about their journal entries, I know they enjoy it, too! Because research has found that, for
some students, the teachers personal interest is critical for their learning (Marzano, 2003), I
would make a special effort to build on the Monday Journal connections throughout the week.
Another way to support the personal connection between my students and me would be to
recognize childrens participation, especially when they take a risk and provide an incorrect or
incomplete answer. My response to incorrect answers has a profound influence on the childrens
future willingness to take such risks. As appropriate, I will prompt children to rethink or extend
their answer or, if they really seem stuck, phone a friend for help. I have been using this
strategy in my student teaching, and students respond very well to it; all students participate in
class discussions, even the struggling students or students who may just be struggling with a
certain concept or skill. For me, this level of response is the ultimate measure of my success in
this domain.
As with creating an environment of respect and rapport, establishing a culture for learning
(component 2b) is a natural outcome of appropriate and consistent teacher modeling. I therefore
strive to demonstrate passion and enthusiasm for my lesson content, admit when I do not know
an answer, self-correct if I have not used the most precise language possible when speaking with
students, and persevere through difficult problems myself, such as how to help students who
struggle with the relationship between addition and subtraction in fact families!
I would also adopt my cooperating teachers practice of sharing student work, making a
special effort to recognize elements of childrens work even if the total product is not as
exceptional as the work of others. Not only does this approach recognize childrens unique
talents, it also fosters pride in their work and sets the expectation that all children can do quality
A culture for learning can also be an extension of an environment of respect and rapport; if
children feel comfortable taking risks in the classroom in front of their peers, with modeling and
guidance, they can also give and receive feedback or support to/from each other. To provide
opportunities for the children to practice these skills and demonstrate initiative, I plan to
incorporate a significant amount of cooperative learning in my future classroom.
Setting high expectations and encouraging initiative not only supports a culture for learning,
it also will enable me to manage classroom procedures (component 2c) efficiently and seemingly
effortlessly. For example, as a student teacher, I established a morning routine that children
follow when they arrive in the classroom after unpacking their backpack. This procedure allows
me to complete morning administrative tasks and meet one-on-one with students while
mitigating the loss of instructional time, and also demonstrates to the students that I expect them
to be responsible for the management of their own time and the quality of their work. Children
have also taken the initiative to ask if they can do an extension activity if they complete a graded
worksheet or test earlier than other children after I piloted this process recently. I therefore plan
to carry these routines over into my future classroom.
My plan for managing student behavior (component 2d) is based on the principles of a
democratic management system (Landau, 2004) in which the children are taught the value of
social responsibility and empathy for others rather than complying with rules to earn rewards in a
token economy. My philosophy is that if children understand why they should follow rules and
the impact on others if they do not, they are more inclined to follow the rules in the first place,
and to correct their behavior with proactive stimulus cueing (Carr & Durand; Lobitz as cited in
Marzano, 2003 or simply a gentle reminder. I realize that establishing such a culture will take a
lot of time and effort on my part, but I believe that it will pay dividends.
I would therefore take a significant amount of time at the beginning of the year and when
introducing cooperative learning activities to have the children help me establish appropriate
guidelines for general classroom/school behavior and for working with others. I believe the key
here is to involve the children in making these decisions; doing so will help them feel a sense of
ownership and accountability (Morgan & Morgan, 2006; Marzano, 2003) and also provide an
opportunity for children to practice problem-solving skills as they work to develop a mutual
understanding of appropriate rules (Landau, 2004).
I would then work with the children to identify appropriate consequences for rule violations,
guiding them to natural consequences whenever possible. With this level of involvement from
the children, I believe that they will be in a good position to help a peer redirect behavior if
necessary, as well as be attentive to teacher reactions (Marzano, 2003).
While I am not nave enough to expect that such a system will work with all children all of
the time, I do strongly believe in starting from a positive place and providing positive emotional
rewards, such as writing notes to parents. In fact, I plan to write a positive note to the families of
every child in the first few weeks of school each year; this effort will not only recognize children
for their good work or good behavior, it will also establish a positive communication foundation
with parents.
Such a foundation will enable me to enlist parent support in the future if necessary to manage
behavior problems. Stage and Quiroz (as cited in Marzano, 2003) note that communication with
parents, both positive and negative, is powerful behavior management strategy. I believe that
creating a bridge between home and school will also make it more likely that parents will keep
me informed of issues in the home that may impact student behavior or attentiveness in school.
This information would be helpful as I consider the reason behind a child's inappropriate
behavior (Morgan & Morgan, 2006) before taking action. In the absence of any such
information, I would then explore the function of the misbehavior and follow the FAIR plan
(Rappaport & Minahan, 2012).
Finally, I would organize the physical space of the classroom (component 2e) to create
several distinct learning zones which are both comfortable and (it goes without saying) safe.
Multiple learning zones will facilitate student movement throughout the day, as well as support
various learning modalities, both of which are important to keep young children cognitively
I envision desks in groups of four to support cooperative learning, a SMART
board/technology learning zone, a white board learning zone, a circle rug, a small group table, a
learning zone containing center activities, and a reading nook with comfortable pillows and
chairs. Students would understand that they can propose changes to the physical arrangement for
a specific activity, and I would also provide clipboards for students to use when working at a
location of their choice in the room for individual or group/partner work.
Because when children feel safe, valued, and respected and have the opportunity to
experience the joy in learning, I have selected as the theme for my Professional Learning
Portfolio one that illustrates the importance of Domain 2. Just as a nurturing gardener
understands the importance of rich soil and careful tending to help her seedlings grow into the
strong and vibrant plants they can be, a distinguished teacher understands the importance of
establishing the right environment for her students to not only learn, but thrive.
Danielson, C. (2014). The framework for teaching evaluation instrument [PDF document].
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Landau, B. M. (2004). The art of classroom management (2
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Marzano, R. J. (2003). Classroom management that works: Research-based strategies for every
teacher. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development
(ASCD). Retrieved from
Morgan, N. (Director), & Morgan, N. (Producer). (2006). Managing the learning environment
[Video file]. Learning Seed. Retrieved from Education in Video: Volume I.
Rappaport, N., & Minahan, J. (2012). Cracking the behavior code. Alexandria: Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Wang, M. C., Haertel, G. D., & Walberg, H.J. (1993). What helps students learn? Educational
Leadership, 51(4), 74. Retrieved from