How to Engage Students in Learning with Classroom Management Strategies by Tim McDonald

Classroom management is not just about keeping order and discipline in the classroom. It is also about creating a positive and supportive learning environment that fosters student engagement, motivation, and achievement. In this article, we will explore some of the classroom management strategies that Tim McDonald, an associate professor of student engagement and behaviour management at Edith Cowan University, Australia, suggests in his book Classroom Management: Engaging Students in Learning .

What is the Positive Learning Framework?

McDonald proposes a Positive Learning Framework (PLF) that consists of four interrelated elements: connection, personalisation, safety, and purpose. These elements are based on the idea that students learn best when they feel connected to their teacher and peers, when they have some choice and control over their learning, when they feel safe and respected in the classroom, and when they see the relevance and value of what they are learning .


Connection refers to the quality of the relationship between the teacher and the students, as well as among the students themselves. A positive connection can enhance students’ sense of belonging, trust, cooperation, and participation in the classroom. Some of the strategies that McDonald suggests to build connection are :

  • Greeting students by name at the door and showing interest in their lives.
  • Using icebreakers, games, and cooperative activities to help students get to know each other.
  • Establishing clear and consistent expectations and rules with student input.
  • Praising students for their efforts, achievements, and positive behaviours.
  • Providing constructive feedback and support to help students improve.
  • Using humour, stories, and anecdotes to make the lessons more engaging and relatable.
  • Showing empathy, respect, and care for students’ feelings, opinions, and needs.


Personalisation refers to the degree of choice and control that students have over their learning. A personalised learning environment can enhance students’ sense of autonomy, competence, and ownership of their learning. Some of the strategies that McDonald suggests to personalise learning are :

  • Using a variety of teaching methods and resources to cater for different learning styles and preferences.
  • Differentiating instruction and assessment to suit different levels of readiness and ability.
  • Giving students options and voice in selecting topics, tasks, materials, or partners.
  • Encouraging students to set their own goals and monitor their own progress.
  • Involving students in co-constructing criteria and rubrics for assessment.
  • Allowing students to demonstrate their learning in creative ways.
  • Soliciting student feedback and suggestions for improving the learning process.



Safety refers to the extent to which students feel physically, emotionally, and intellectually safe in the classroom. A safe learning environment can enhance students’ sense of security, confidence, and risk-taking in learning. Some of the strategies that McDonald suggests to create safety are :

  • Arranging the physical space of the classroom to facilitate movement, interaction, and visibility.
  • Maintaining a calm and orderly atmosphere by using positive reinforcement, reminders, signals, or cues.
  • Addressing any disruptive or inappropriate behaviours promptly and respectfully.
  • Creating a culture of respect and acceptance by modelling positive language and behaviour.
  • Promoting positive peer relationships by teaching social skills and conflict resolution skills.
  • Supporting students’ emotional well-being by acknowledging their feelings and providing coping strategies.
  • Fostering a growth mindset by encouraging students to embrace challenges and learn from mistakes.



Purpose refers to the extent to which students see the meaning and value of what they are learning. A purposeful learning environment can enhance students’ sense of curiosity, interest, and motivation in learning. Some of

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