I recently attended a class that I had been looking forward to, and midway through the day became completely disengaged. Why? Because I was not having a positive experience. The class was spread out all over the place, the facilitator did not ask questions (and when questions were asked did not answer them), I feel like the facilitator was tired (she mentioned her early flight and the fact that she had to leave the minute the class ended to catch another flight several times) and worst of all there were several people in the class who heckled other students when they tried to contribute ideas to the learning.
You might wonder what exactly I’m getting at when I say that we need to create a positive learning environment for our students. I’m not talking about the paint or having motivational posters in the classroom (although those things do impact the learning environment). I’m talking about creating an environment in which students feel safe, motivated, engaged and encouraged to learn. Building a positive learning community in our classrooms is important, and not that “hard” to do (for any of you who have read some of my previous posts, you are probably starting to notice some themes).
After doing some research, these are the top tips I found on creating a positive learning environment:
- Build Relationships/Rapport in your Classrooms. This is something that needs to happen right off the get go. How is this going to help you? Its going to help to build trust, which is invaluable in creating a safe learning environment. It can also help you to try to connect with your students and make the learning more relevant (which in turn will increase their engagement). How can you do this? Learn their names. Learn things about them like where they are from, the things they like to do, what’s important to them. Use ice breakers in your class so that you ALL get to know each other. This helps to open the door for so many people.
- Communication. There really isn’t much in life that isn’t improved by effective communication, and the learning environment is no exception. How can this help? Open the channels of communication up to your students and see them flourish with ideas, become more engaged and become an active part of each lesson. How can you do this? Listen. Share. Ask them questions which encourage them to reflect and contribute. Speak their language.
- Be a role model. Be positive, display positive actions, reinforce positive behaviour. These are all things that can’t do anything but improve the environment you are in. How can you do this? Teach respect, fairness and kindness. Dont allow bullying or heckling in your classroom.Bring positive energy into your classrooms. Its contagious.
If we take a step back to my introduction, when I discussed my recent misadventure, and we try to apply these 3 steps to that environment could things have been different?
I whole heartedly think so.I think had these things been implemented into that class:
- Relationships/Rapport building There was absolutely no connection between students/facilitator. She didnt even actually know what we do for a living so it made the learning quite difficult when the references she made were completely out of scope for us. I think had the students felt more connection, there would have been more engagement and less heckling.
- The facilitator made no effort to communicate the end goal (I’m still not sure what it was). If you don’t know where you are going, it can be hard to get there and then how do you even know if you ARE there? If people felt like they were being heard, I think it would have also improved the engagement and motivation in the room.
- Role model- Had the facilitator seemed interested or energetic i think it would have improved the level of engagement as well. I think it’s important to remember (as facilitators) we may be “dealing” with things (early flights etc..) but we don’t need to share that with our students. Share the positive things with them how excited you are to be there with them, how much you love the topic of the lesson etc.. Dont bring them down with your work schedule.
I can say that personally, if the environment had been controlled and had a strong, energetic, positive facilitator I would have (likely) had a far better experience. If it seems like this post has been a bit of a downer or a rant I should say that I only take all of this as an opportunity to learn for myself. I don’t want my students to walk away from any of my sessions feeling like I did that day. That experience has just reinforceed the importance of creating a positive learning environment for my students.
Reference: Creating a Positive Learning Environment