Mayo's Clinics

Aug 17, 2022, 18:16
Promoting Civility in the Classroom

Promoting Civility in the Classroom

07 February 2020

Enhancing and honoring civil behavior and respectful attitudes in classrooms.

By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT

For the last two months, we have discussed implementing change in various programs. This month, we will return to the topic started in Civility in the Real World. In the first Mayo Clinic dedicated to civility, I discussed the causes of lack of civility, definitions of civility, and the importance of restoring civility in discussions. It encouraged you to listen with your heart carefully to other people, listen to what people say underneath their words, recognize your own frames of reference which limit what you see and hear, and recognize the dignity of the people you talk with.

This month, we will discuss strategies to encourage civility in the classroom. It begins with establishing a culture of civility, enhancing a climate the promotes civility and encouraging civility amongst students.

Establishing a culture of civility
If we accept Pierre Forni’s definition of civility as, “Learning how to successfully connect and live well with others, developing thoughtfulness, and fostering effective self-expression and communication,” then the guidelines for establishing a classroom climate that fosters these qualities are easy to understand.

We need to build cultures that encourage and reward careful listening, supportive teamwork, regular and consistent communication among all participants, and critical thinking. That work means including in your syllabus clear expectations for respecting and listening carefully to all the persons in the course. It also means talking about respect, teamwork and clear thinking. Some of the ways to state the expectations involve: writing documents about being respectful and civil in the classroom; posting signs listing the values of mutual respect; and encouraging careful listening, positive teamwork and productive feedback. It also means setting a tone of positive respect for individuals, ingredients, and equipment.

Although it may not be easy to implement these values when there are production requirements and limited time in classes, creating a culture of respect and professionalism early in a culinarian’s career is a powerful gift to give our students.

Enhancing a climate that promotes civility
Promoting a climate of civility requires that we go beyond setting expectations by serving as role models of civility and respect. It entails demonstrating careful listening as well as regular and consistent communication and modeling behaviors we want to encourage. That means using respectful tones toward all students and staff and correcting, both privately and publicly, students and others who do not use them.

It also means being clear you will not tolerate rude or disrespectful behavior, vulgar language, bullying, abusive treatment of other students, ethnic or sexist slurs, racism, destructive competition, or physical taunting of other persons. Making these issues explicit calls attention to the value of a classroom climate where everyone is encouraged to challenge themselves, do their best, and continually improve. It also sets a pattern for professional behavior that we encourage in our classrooms and throughout the industry. It also means not allowing them to do what many of us experienced in commercial kitchens and popular dining rooms.

Encouraging civility
As a teacher, you set the rules and demonstrate civil conduct. The way you use students’ names (pronouncing them correctly, using names with respect, and not renaming students without their permission or encouragement) make a positive difference. Another modification that has a big impact is the tone with which you provide feedback to students. Use teaching methods that include fostering active learning and welcoming students’ questions. Consider decreasing lectures that are condescending in tone or substance.

Another strategy involves praising students who listen attentively to each other, who help their colleagues, and who listen respectfully. In fact, listening carefully and consciously to other people can promote civility and it often changes a speaker’s perspective due to the power of being recognized and really heard. Honoring these behaviors fosters kindness, generosity of spirit to others, and leads to increased civility in our students’ and colleagues’ private and public lives.

I hope these suggestions will prompt you to consider ways to enhance and honor civil behavior and respectful attitudes in your classrooms. Next month, we will talk about levels of listening in our classrooms. If you have suggestions for other topics or teaching practices you want discussed, send them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I will include them in future Mayo Clinics.

Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT, is retired as a clinical professor of hotel and tourism management at New York University. As principal of Mayo Consulting Services, he continues to teach around the globe and is a regular presenter at CAFÉ events nationwide.