Society for the Teaching of Psychology
Division 2 of the American Psychological Association

Some Classroom Routines for Learning to Stick

22 Oct 2014 5:51 PM | Anonymous

By Peri Ozlem Yuksel-Sokmen, College of Staten Island and The Graduate Center, CUNY

I study social routines as a framework to examine how children develop communicative skills in various contexts and cultures. In this blog, I will argue that routines are critical components for classroom practices in higher education, too. I will use the analogy of early joint activity to show how routines provide structure and promote a positive learning environment in which learning is made to stick.

Routines such as getting dressed, pretend play, or joint picture book reading take place in the daily lives of young minds and provide vital contexts for learning to occur in a repetitive and structured, yet fun way. Children learn how their social world is organized, the words and tools experts use in relation to each context, and learn to become a member of their cultural community by participating in daily activities with others. Colleges are also communities of practices. Students come here to continue with the joy of learning to become competent leaders in their communities and future professions.

Effective teaching starts with clear establishment of rules and procedures crucial to control and engage a crowd in larger lecture halls or to maintain reciprocal responsibilities and roles in smaller class room settings (Hilton, 1999; Schroeder, Stephens, & Williams, 2013). From day one the instructor has to make clear that students are expected to be respectful and will not disturb the learning process at any time.  For instance, a strict rule may apply to cell phone policy, not bursting in or out the room when someone else is presenting, or requiring students to read or complete certain assignments before coming to class. Learning-centered teaching involves that students come prepared to class and know that they have to repeat this to every class session. The same applies to cheating and plagiarism, and making sure that students know from day one that breaking rules for ethical misconduct has consequences. These classroom rules set the parameters for maintaining a learning experience without disruptions and dishonesty (tips for students you should also be aware of:

Above and beyond these basic regulations for maintaining an ideal learning environment, there is a list of established routines psychology teachers can include into their teaching practices for learning to be more memorable. The easiest one is to start with greeting your students upon entering the classundefined a routine that might even increase student test scores (Weinstein, Laverghetta, Alexander, & Stewart, 2009).  Before you move on to a new class topic or lecture series, it is a good routine to ask students to a) summarize main points from the previous class session and to b) speculate about the upcoming class topic. This can be done as a short writing activity. The activity creates student reflection on past and future learning (metacognition). At the same time the speculation is meant to foster curiosity: It enhances recollection of past materials and excites students for new learning (Bonwell, 1991). Another great routine involves the establishment of ‘circle time’ , especially appropriate for lab classes (seating arrangement matters). Facing peers instead of their back provides students the opportunity to interact with each other and to narrate what they have learned. Because learning sticks if students understand what they have learned.


“Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.” (Chickering & Gamson, 1987, p. 3)


The routines presented here are just a few quick and easy conventions to run a class but they also require that students understand the rational behind your established rituals in order to be involved and to become active learning partners. Effective teachers also know that routines or class rituals require time preparation and modifications depending on the class format (lab class vs. large lecture class) and task at hand. Routines establish a culture of practice necessary to acquire knowledge and develop new ones.


You cannot teach an old dog new tricks but you can teach your students the routines of thinking to remember to remember to learn. And to repeat to think. In this sense, wishing you a happy routining.


Bonwell, C. C. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. Active learning workshops. Retrieved on October 11, 2014 from

Chickering, A.W. & Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), 3-7.

Hilton, J. L. (1999). Teaching large classes. In B. Perlman, L. I. McCann, & S. H. McFadden (Eds.). Lessons learned: Practical advice for the teaching of psychology. Washington, DC: Association for Psychological Science.

Ruhl, K. L., Hughes, C. A., & Schloss, P. J. (1987). Using the pause procedure to enhance lecture recall. Teacher Education and Special Education, 10, 14-18.

Schroeder, J.L., Stephens, R., & Williams, K.L. (2013). Managing the large(r) classroom. Observer, 26(3). Retrieved on October 11, 2014 from

Weinstein, L., Laverghetta, A., Alexander, R., & Stewart, M. (2009).Teacher greetings increase college students’ test scores. College Student Journal, 43(2). 452-453.

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