Establishing Class Norms That Promote Learning

Credit: iStock.com/FG Trade
Credit: iStock.com/FG Trade
In 1936, psychologist Muzafer Sherif reported a landmark study on the creation of social norms. Sherif made use of an optical illusion called the autokinetic effect. When people view a stationary pinpoint of light in a dark environment, they will perceive the light to move in random directions. For example, on a dark night, if you look at a single star, it will start to appear to move. Sherif put subjects in a darkened room with a single point of light and had them report the light’s movement. Participants were alone, with another person, or with two other people. When subjects were alone, their perceptions of the illusory movement varied considerably. When, however, they were part of a group and reporting their perceptions aloud, the group quickly converged on a common judgment of the light’s path. Furthermore, when subjects who were part of a group were subsequently tested individually, they maintained the norms established by the group.

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One Response

  1. I co-create group norms with students. We reflect on values and students and faculty bring in top 5 norms they want to live by in the community. We put those on the board, shuffle them, discuss how we want to exemplify in the classroom and viola, we have about 4-6 norms. We use them to guide our co-shares learning environment.

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