From Happy Learning to Effective Learning – Classroom Management Techniques for the 21st Century

Mark enters the classroom for another day of lectures looking forward to learning something new. If the lectures are boring, he can always choose to connect with his friends in class or get on social media and update himself.

Mark and his classmates are part of Gen-Y, a generation of students that have been described as impatient, incurious, unmotivated and in possession of a belief that they are entitled to large rewards for small amount of effort. Gen-Y has grown up in an environment that is significantly different from what prior generations have experienced. The impact is that their view of the world is fundamentally different from what most of us in the lecturing business may imagine. Mark and his classmates have grown up in an environment that possesses unparalleled levels of media saturation and technology.

In an article entitled “’Y’ Are They Different” ( GMP Group and Temasek Polytechnic, 2009), research materials indicate that Gen-Y believe that it is most important for their educators to be caring, inspiring and competent (in decreasing priority).  On the contrary, as mentors and educators, we may instead be demonstrating the need to be competent, honest and forward-looking. Does this misalignment create blind spots in us such that we overlook the genuine learning needs of the Gen-Y students? Are our legacy systems in classroom management rapidly losing its appeal? What does the teaching community need to do different so that we can align ourselves towards adding value to the learning journey of the younger generation?

In my years at SIM, I have identified 3 ways to enhance my skills to in classroom management. I would like to share them with you.

  1. Create and effective learning environment

In many of my dealings with Gen-Y students I realized that for me to connect more effectively, I would have to think like one too. A couple of semesters back, I decided that the one way to connect is via music. I acquired an appreciation for latest music played in our local radio stations. In class, I acquired a habit to tune into a radio station that catered for Gen-Y.  By playing the music of their choice, I realize how they can connect and start feeling comfortable in the learning environment.

Another way to create a learning environment was for me to mingle with students before class and during breaks. I use these opportunities to connect and inquire about their progress with their studies. I arrive between 15-20 minutes before class so that I am physically, mentally and emotionally available for the students. While students may feel uncomfortable approaching us, we can make a conscious effort to step up to them and establish a friendly rapport.

  1. Establish learning space procedures

Good ground rules are effective ways to introduce discipline and control in classroom management. Since most programs have gone electronic, students tend to actively use their electronic gadgets in classroom. While I support a concept of paperless environment, I still insist that students only use their electronic gadgets to follow the slides and take additional notes. During learning activities and tutorials, I am quick to discipline those who violate the ground rules and make it a point to constantly recheck on them for compliance.

During my first lesson I always emphasize on my relationship with the students. In class, I address myself as a “learning-partner” rather than a “lecturer” or “teacher”. As a “learning-partner”, I commit myself to collaborating with the students and helping them grow in their learning journey. I feel that this has a significant impact in building a rapport with them.

To complement the role as a learning-partner, I consistently encourage them to address me by my first name. Even though I realize that some of them prefer to address me formally, I still have many who like addressing me by my first name. This practice is even more evident when they attempt to communicate with me via social media, SMS and emails. I feel that this practice allows students to connect better with their learning-partner.

  1. Create a motivational environment

One method for creating a motivational environment is to engage students actively during lessons. Posing open-ended and reflective questions keep students alert in class and enhances the learning process. Some associate lectures are very good in articulating names. I, for one, have an incredible challenge of remembering names. Frequently, I use the attendance list as a reference in identifying my “victims”.

I recall an evaluation summary comment that I read a couple of years ago from one of my past students. They claimed that I was able to bring the subject to life. I had an opportunity to meet up with the student and better understand how I was able to bring the subject to life. The use of videos, stories and prior experience enabled me to create an atmosphere where the student was able to grasp the concepts more effectively.

I am confident that Mark and the Gen-Y community will be exposed to a variety of classroom management techniques. I have learnt that there is no one standard solution for every student in the classroom. I continue to explore new techniques which will inspire Mark to sustain his motivation levels and graduate with exemplary grades.


GMP Group and Temasek Polytechnic (2009). “Y” Are They Different? A Study of Gen Y At Work, Their Views [online]. [Accessed 06 May 14].

Article contributor: Raymond Thomas

Raymond Thomas is an associate lecturer with SIM GE who is currently teaching Marketing in the DMS Programmes. 

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