Co-creating group norms in the language classroom

Matthew Coomber

Norms of behaviour operate within social groupings of all types and sizes; those which are established within the classroom can have either a positive or negative impact on the creation of a successful learning environment. While some norms may be explicitly codified by institutions and be non-negotiable, others are created by teachers, learners, or a combination of the two. Allowing students an explicit voice in the negotiation and creation of classroom behavioural norms can encourage them to take ownership of their learning. However, offering unlimited freedom of decision involves a variety of risks. By using controlled democracy to follow a middle path between the extremes of a teacher-led and student-led classroom, teachers can offer learners a significant level of input into the construction of behavioural norms. This paper examines the use of this method, the extent to which student choices coincide with teacher preferences, and the implications for classroom practice.