Educational Social Environments & Classroom Social Environments


This page includes: this overview, description of a traditional classroom environment, categories to consider for positive educational social environments, and positive communication and instructional strategies for teachers & students.

Before you teach you should recognize your personal beliefs and theories and analyze what their impact will be on your classroom practices. To discover and be able to explain how your ideas and theories align with and affect your methodologies, strategies, procedures, and interactions, which will in turn affect the success you and your students achieve. The following information provides assistance for your reflection and analysis.

First, is a review summary of the social environment in a traditional classroom.

Traditional social classroom environment

The classroom is a unique social environment unlike most other social organizations. Below are five attributes for all social environments with a description for each in a traditional classroom environment. Notice how different they are from social environments such as: a group of friends, a club, religious group, sports team, travel group, alumni group, and most other groups.


  • Learning is the main objective.
  • Outcomes of learning and procedures for achieving them are chosen before the group is assembled.
  • There is little participation by the members of the group in the assessment and revision of goals and methods of instruction.


  • Mandatory participation by students is enforced by law.
  • Time of birth and place of residence determine school and class placements.
  • Members of the class have no control over the composition of the group.


  • The leader is chosen without the participation or consent of the membership.
  • Law and custom, rather than group consensus, establish the prerogatives of the leader.
  • Freedom of expression and movement are controlled by the leader.


  • What the class can and cannot do is often determined by those who preceded and will follow them.
  • Membership in other groups may exert strong pressures to accept or reject classroom norms.
  • Other groups often carefully scrutinize the work of students and their teachers.

Points of Interest

  • Most social groups select leaders. Members may choose to participate and the degree of participation. If individual members do not agree with the group, they may leave.
  • If a majority of the members do not approve of the leader’s role, they elect a new leader.
  • The teacher is the appointed leader of the class, or a social group, and derives authority from this appointment as teacher.
  • The power of leaders depend on how they interact with students. Leadership power derives from five sources of power illustrated on this Classroom leader power model and chart

J. W. Getzels and H. A. Thelen summarized the social environment of the classroom in The Classroom Group as a Unique Social System. The 56th yearbook - The Dynamics of Instructional Groups: Part II (pp. 53-82), Chicago: National Society for the Study of Education.

Possible goal categories to consider for educational social environments

Interact and work with students in ways that respond to and meet their diverse needs (social, academic, physical, emotional):

Culturally responsive teachers must: Avoid long-standing traditional, subject-centered, top-down, and non-negotiable ways of working with students and create new ways of interacting with students to develop shared visions through mediation and negation that motivate students to take risks and seek empowerment from learning and become an ethical person and self learner.

Positive Communication & Instructional Strategies for teachers & students




Ideas for using a social learning theory for better collaboration, cooperation, social skills, & supporting communication.


Pedagogy - curriculum, teaching, learning, human development, & planning

Management - Self Development & Individual, Group, & Classroom Management


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
[Home: & ]