In order for a successful and positive learning environment to exist, clear communication is essential. Upon reflecting past experiences and learning situations that we have been involved in, there may have been a time when the instructor was not organized and prepared from day one. We may have been that instructor ourselves! Learners need to understand what your expectations, rules and teaching style are. Something I have taken to heart in my limited experience in education is “Assume they know nothing!”
There are numerous ways of developing a good foundation for clear communication before your class begins. Well developed lesson plans, rubrics, schedules and assignments will assist in establishing a positive environment. Another way to get the ball rolling is to do a quick class assessment before you begin class. This could be in the form of the a simple questionnaire that can be completed before class begins or on the first day. This can assist you with understanding the background of the student, their perceived strengths and weaknesses, or perhaps something concrete and relevant to your subject matter. (Example: do you have any food allergies?)
I find these approaches assist with starting the class off on the right foot, and with the information received in the questionnaire can ease you in getting to know the learners individually and perhaps a starting point for discussion. This and many other techniques are highlighted in the article below. Reflecting upon classes I have taught and classes that I am preparing to teach, I can draw from the other techniques shared.