What Makes a Good Learning Environment
A learning environment is a diverse platform where users engage and interact to learn new skills. While learners can learn in an array of settings, the term refers to the more preferred and accurate alternative to the traditional classroom. The term does not pass on a traditional or limited connotation such as a room full of desks and a chalkboard.
Components and Importance of an Effective Learning Environment
Developing an engaging and positive learning environment for learners, especially in a particular course, is one of the most creative aspects of teaching. Typically, the focus is either on the physical learning environments (institutional) like lecture theaters, classrooms, or labs; or on different technologies that are used to develop online learning environments.
However, the learning environment is an expression that is a lot broader than these components. The term comprises of:
- Learners’ characteristics;
- Learning and teaching goals;
- Activities that support learning;
- Assessment strategies that drive and measure learning;
- A culture that directly infuses a learning environment.
Typically, social, physical, psychological or cultural factors involved in a learning environment deeply affect the learners’ learning capabilities. If the learning atmosphere is not conducive to gaining new knowledge or skills, it will be hard for learners to remain engrossed or interested.
For example, stress significantly affact the cognitive functioning. When you combine stress with learning processes, the negative thoughts outweighs the positive ones. Such learners find the learning environment more like a threat to their self-esteem than a platform to improve or learn new skills. To overcome this, the instructors hold the responsibility to incorporate an arsenal of strategies that would inoculate learners against the negative attitude by providing enough positive experiences.
This integration of strategies in the learning/teaching approach will counteract the negative and help students in getting out of the negative spiral. When a learner feels appreciated, accepted and see him/her as an important and contributing part of a learning environment only then he/she can improve, learn with an open mind, accept and appreciate viewpoints and solve problems earnestly.
Nevertheless, a learning environment is a great attribute to the success of the learner. It offers a positive ambiance to feel motivated and engaged. An ideal learning setting encourages the interaction with learners/instructors and eventually establishes a sense of support.
What Are The Factors That Make A Positive Learning Environment?
Following are the prime factors that contribute to establishing an effective and positive learning environment. Let’s discuss some of the most important factors.
Establish a supportive learning culture
Each member of the learning community should have the feeling of connectedness. They must feel that they are contributing to the overall environment while being a bigger and important part of a supportive learning culture.
For this, a proper support system or mentorship program should be developed that would provide them the required assistance whenever needed. The idea can also be supported by creating online discussion forums or online platforms where learners can gather and discuss various topics.
Address Learners’ Needs
Just like adults, learners also have some psychological needs for order and security, love and belonging, competence and personal power, novelty and freedom and even fun. It is important to meet these needs at all times and to help learners progress and be taught with a positive attitude.
Any learning environment, where instructors accommodate these intrinsic needs, learners tend to be happier and more engaging. There are less behavioral incidences than otherwise and this fulfilling learning atmosphere help learners in developing the right learning attitude while establishing positive relationships with peers.
Keep it Positive
Learners respond far better to praise than punitive measures. Appreciation is the key to motivation, unlike humiliation, that is highly discouraging. Learners appreciate the freedom to express their opinions; similarly, the opinions of their peers also play a crucial role in defining their learning attitude.
That is exactly why actions like harassment or teasing are the number one cause for learners to drop out from the course rather than labeled as ‘dull’ or ‘stupid’ in front of others. While it is important to express opinions, it is also vital to remain positive rather than assault.
However, the best way to cut down this negative behavior, in a professional learning environment, is to start correcting the behavior without highlighting the names of the ones making mistakes.
Feedback is the great way to connect with learners and to set their learning efforts in the right direction. Feedback is vital for learners as it helps them in tracking their progress and in changing their learning strategy accordingly. It helps them recognize their weak areas while improving the developed skills.
A feedback informs the learners where they are missing the mark and what is needed to be done. A feedback is not only a key to motivate the learner but this timely and consistent feedback ensures an interactive learning environment. It keeps learners involved and allows them to keep going while mounting a feeling of purpose and belonging.
In addition to feedback and appreciation, another way to establish a positive and effective learning environment is to celebrate the learners’ success. This could be anything from a shout out to a big reward. When learners’ achievements are recognized and shared by the instructors with other learners, it creates a sense of achievement and fosters healthy learning behavior.
Instructors can easily take out some time on a weekly basis to recognize each student for any of the specific accomplishment. This could also be done in the form of group activities or collective assignments or projects. In addition to the celebration, it is also important to discuss the processes or strategies used by the learner to achieve the objective. This will also act as a guide for others to use the same learning strategy and to improve their performance in the same manner.
A good learning environment offers a safe platform for learners. Before you can expect learners to succeed academically, they should also feel safe both mentally and physically. While most of the schools take physical safety measures, not many learning platforms consider the mental safety of the learners.
Safety in a learning environment goes beyond physical well-being. In order to maintain a safe learning environment, learners must feel supported, welcomed, and respected.
But many learning platforms and their codes of conduct don’t always consider or support the positive climate. For instance, strict disciplinary practices like suspensions negatively impact the morale of the learners and hamper their performance or likelihood of improvement.
Hence, building a positive learning environment is more about maintaining a healthy culture where the expectations are well communicated and learners are fully aware of the code of conduct.
Employ Interactive Games and Activities
An effective learning platform is the one that establishes strong interactions and promotes collaborative learning culture. This means that it is imperative for instructors to maintain positive relationships with the learners while also ensuring healthy association among the learners.
This can be done by using the best way of encouraging group activities. Introduction of non-competitive games and activities break down the cliques within a learning environment. This also assists the new and shy students to have a sense of belonging.
Such activities promote communication and collaborative working environment and establish cooperative learning structures.
There are hundreds of proven group activities and games that can be introduced as classroom activities. These fun activities make learners interested in attending the class and help them learn and progress in a friendlier environment.
The Final Words
When you establish a learning environment, keeping these important factors in mind, it helps in developing a thriving learning culture. A positive learning environment is the one where learners feel involved and responsible for their learning while being comfortable enough to fully participate in group and individual activities.
Needless to say, when educators foster positive learning culture, learners are more likely to have the higher motivation that leads to better and more promising learning outcomes.