The classroom environment has a major impact on the way students of all ages learn. Although every pupil learns in an entirely independent way, by initially setting boundaries and standards, creating a safe and inclusive environment and being consistent in the delivery of curricula, assessment and reflection, a teacher can provide an optimal learning environment. Here are seven things to consider when working towards the ideal classroom.
1. Safety and Wellbeing
Feeling safe, included, understood and successful is crucial for a young mind to learn. If a student knows they are supported, respected and valued, they are more likely to open themselves up to challenges. A safe environment that promotes wellbeing can be achieved by setting boundaries, outlining standards and expectations, communicating with students and their families, creating independent learning plans for students with special needs, listening and caring.
2. Healthy Risk Taking and Creativity
Students build confidence when they tackle challenges and overcome them. Encouraging creativity in the classroom, making room for the students to grow and take risks, and rewarding achievements can create a learning environment where learners strive to absorb more and achieve more. Of course, where mental health is a factor, challenges should be kept within the parameters of the child’s comfort and willingness, but any time a student steps outside those comfort areas and achieves, is a time for celebration and congratulations.
3. Reflection and Assessment
Assessment is an excellent gauge of how a teacher is performing, as well as how students are achieving. Regular assessment should occur in the classroom to ensure everyone is at the same stage and students are informed and engaged. But assessments don’t have to be in the daunting form of a test, assignment, project or rubric. Feedback sheets work well, online quizzes and surveys are fun, and group tasks and orals can take away the pressure of ticks and crosses. Mixing up tasks with a range of creative, oral, written and multimodal assessment options can optimise the learning environment for a variety of learning styles.
Students all learn differently and in a variety of ways. To get the best out of their learning experience, and to ensure success for all, differentiating the curriculum is vital. Varying the mode of assessment in any given task can make all the difference to a student with specific learning needs. The option of delivering assessment orally, rather than written or vice versa can mean a great deal to a student’s sense of accomplishment. Modifying tasks is a good idea when there are diverse learning styles and levels, however, it’s important not to single a student out, so giving a variety of options for students to choose from can alleviate the stress.
5. Encouraging Leadership and Adaptability
Leadership and responsibility gives students a sense of achievement and accomplishment. It also allows children to see a range of leadership styles. Awarding leadership roles in primary classes and giving awards based on merit in secondary classrooms will go a long way in encouraging students to strive. Make sure every student has an opportunity to become a leader. They may choose to accept the challenge, or they may choose not to, but having the option of working towards leadership is a valuable life skill.
Engagement doesn’t just come from making things fun in the classroom. There are many ways to engage students which will create an optimal learning environment. Building on prior learning and student experience and interests will create an engaged group of students ready to listen and learn. Collaborative learning opportunities use social engagement to allow students to thrive. Making use of humour, play and problem based learning will get children thinking, wondering, laughing and wanting to learn.
7. Self-directed Learning
An optimal learning environment is one where students develop the skills to set them up for life. Promoting lifelong learning is a way to engage and inspire students, and will develop socially aware children and give them an opportunity to become successful adults. Open ended tasks with a variety of modes of assessments give students the opportunity to choose and experiment with their skills. Problem-based learning and research projects where students have to hypothesise, explore and discover will enhance critical thinking and problem solving skills. These valuable assets will set children up for academic success as they will learn to think on their own and make deductions, discoveries, mistakes and breakthroughs.