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Fostering Prosocial Classroom Environments

There is substantial evidence across the social and natural sciences suggesting cohesive groups of individuals are able to outperform individuals. This idea has been leveraged by instructional strategies such as cooperative learning in which small groups of students have designated roles to complete as part of a collaborative task. Imagine if we could harness this same group-bonus effect at the whole class level. We explore this idea in our work on fostering prosocial classroom environments. We hypothesize that classrooms with ubiquitous prosocial atmospheres may go some distance in improving learning as well as socio-emotional outcomes. There is potential that prosocial classroom atmospheres could mediate the impacts of adverse childhood experiences. Further, prosocial atmospheres may increase the likelihood that students consider others’ ideas and challenge others’ ideas.

Currently we are beginning two projects in classrooms related to prosocial classroom environments. The first study examines the impact of prosocial environments on student achievement, motivation, and connectedness in laboratory portions of a large introductory biology course. A second project explores the impact of prosocial classroom environments on academic, critical thinking, and motivational outcomes of elementary school children.