There are many learning environments out there. Each one should consider the emotional and physical needs of the students. The arrangement of desks or tables, the music played during class time, or the presence or absence of natural sunlight from windows, all have an impact on how well we learn.
Technically you can learn in any environment, but there are specific attributes that we can make sure exist in our spaces to ensure that we are being the most effective. Let’s take a closer look at the 5 attributes of effective learning environments. Learning environments should be…
Students need to feel connected to each other, the subject being taught, and the teacher facilitating the lesson.
- Create opportunities for students to connect to each other through technology or classroom discussion.
- Offer opportunities for group work or collaboration.
- Create lessons that address the standards, but also interests young people.
- Share yourself with your students and allow students to share themselves with others to foster community
Students should feel engaged in the classroom.
- Curiosity and passion are contagious. Convey your excitement for the lesson, subject, or task at hand. This will pass on to your students.
- Be present and available to students so that they feel like active members in the classroom.
- Revamp any stale lessons to make them relevant to students.
- Tasks in class should be challenging, but achievable. This will build self-esteem and a sense of success.
Inquiry-based and Question Generating
Students should have more questions than answers. Questions should be valued, acknowledged, encouraged, and promoted.
- Create opportunities for curiosity and exploration
- Embrace experimentation and learning through mistakes and failure
- The role of a teacher in these environments should be more coach-like and less direct instructor
- More questions equal more opportunities for learning.
Free and Choice-Based
Students should feel ownership of their own learning whenever it applies.
- Include differentiation in all lessons that apply. We all know that differentiation is important, but it is also an attribute of an effective learning environment. It allows all students an opportunity to learn the best way they can.
- Offer a choice of subject matter whenever possible. For example, if you are teaching a lesson on color theory, allow the individual student to select the subject. This freedom will keep students more engaged.
- Address Learning Styles and ensure they correlate with the assignment at hand.
Transparency begins with communication. Students should be clearly told why they are being taught what they are being taught, why it is important, and how it will be assessed.
- When we make class content applicable to the real world, it increases student buy-in. Information needs to travel with students outside of the classroom.
- Assessments should be authentic and transparent with no secrets. Students need to understand how they are being assessed and what they are being assessed on.
Try creating a learning environment that helps students thrive. Think about your own classrooms and see where you could make improvements.
Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.