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Building a Supportive Classroom Environment: The First Day

To get your class off on the right foot, David Dorn suggests that asking (an answering) the following questions will put your students at ease, establish expectations, and help students understand your teaching style.

Items to be covered the first day of class:

  1. What are we doing here together?
    • Purpose and nature of class
    • Course content
    • How it fits in the departmental mission
    • How it fits with other courses in the department
    • Specific learning outcomes
    • Why useful
    • Why you should take this class
  2. How will we accomplish this together?
    • Course mechanics
    • Assessment of learning outcomes (class discussion, exams, papers, projects, etc.)
    • Syllabus as contract
  3. What will the instructors be like?
    • Personal background
    • Academic background
    • Qualifications to teach this course
    • How I grade
    • My expectations (daily attendance, etc.)
  4. What are your questions?
  5. Who are you?
    • Student introductions
    • Your expectations of yourself for this course
    • You expectations of me
  6. What is the substance of the course?
    • What do you know already or don’t know so I can plan accordingly? (Pre-assessment)


Adapted from:

Dorn, D. S. (1987). The first day of class: Problems and strategies. Teaching Sociology, 15, 61-72.

Related Readings:

Bailey, J. (1989). Building a supportive classroom environment. The TA at UD (5th ed.) (pp. 16-20). Dover, DE: Center for Teaching Effectiveness

Friedrich, G., & Cooper, P. (1990). The first day. In J. Daily, G. Friedrich, & a. Vangelisti (Eds.), Teaching communication: Theory, research, and methods (pp. 237-246). Hilldale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Goldsmith, C. A., & Wilson, E. (1980). Passing on sociology: The teaching of a discipline (pp. 178-180). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Wright, D. L. (1989, Fall). The challenge of teaching the introductory-level course. Teaching excellence:Toward the best in the academy. Honolulu, HI: Center for Teaching Excellence.