Creating a Supportive Climate for Engagement

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Weekly Tip: Creating a Supportive Climate for Engagement

As an instructor at WSU, you are one of the most important aspects of the student educational experience. Research suggests student engagement and success “is reinforced when supported by supportive campus environments composed of peers and higher education professionals” (Reason, 2013).

The components below work together to create opportunities for building a supportive presence throughout the semester.

Foster Authenticity

Research indicates that professors are perceived as authentic by students when they are approachable, passionate, and knowledgeable (Johnson & LaBelle, 2017). Some opportunities to demonstrate these include:

  • Sharing relevant personal anecdotes that reveal excitement about learning within your field.
  • Communicating struggles with difficult concepts you had as a student and how you overcame them.
  • Creating opportunities for genuine connections.
    • Allow each student to share details about themselves.
    • Encourage study groups outside of the classroom.

Build a Sense of Community

Current research reveals a direct link between the sense of belonging students experience and their persistence in their courses. To cultivate a sense of belonging:

  • Encourage participation and invite questions.
  • Provide a place for less outgoing students to ask questions in the course.
    • Consider a Questions for the Instructor board in Blackboard.
    • Consider offering extra credit for two office hours visits during the semester.
  • Acknowledge and support diversity.
  • Send announcements or emails to your students during the semester.
  • Create opportunities for collaboration and knowledge or skill sharing.
  • Counter students’ fears of appearing unknowledgeable by reminding them we are all learners.
    • Create a virtual board where students can anonymously respond to a question and where you can provide constructive feedback.

Set Clear and Consistent Expectations

Students should have a clear set of expectations for success in all course activities. Consider providing:

  • Discussions and written information about the course goals.
  • Instructions for class discussions, peer reviews, collaboration, and assessments that can be re-accessed as needed.
  • Rubrics that outline expectations and how work will be evaluated.

Provide Meaningful and Timely Feedback

Feedback provides an opportunity to foster engagement, collaboration, and authenticity while offering a measure of mastery of outcomes before high-stakes assessments. Some strategies to accomplish these are:

  • Implement low-stakes formative assessments.
  • Define and use language from rubrics throughout the semester.
  • Use specific and positive language.
  • Incorporate self and peer assessments.

Next month’s tip will explore different types of feedback and methods to do so in a timely manner without burying yourself in work.


Johnson, Zac D., & LaBelle, Sara. (2017). An Examination of Teacher Authenticity in the College Classroom. Communication Education, 66(4), 423-439.

Reason, Robert D. (2013). Creating and Assessing Campus Climates that Support Personal and Social Responsibility. Association of American Colleges & Universities, 99(1). Retrieved from AACU.

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For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.