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Creating an effective learning environment

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An effective learning environment can be classified as any location or surrounding that possesses the conditions to effect the desired learning outcome€.
e.g. Classroom
Language Laboratory
Library
Church
Home etc.

Although the student€™s ability and performance are linked to the learning environment, all of us learn best in surroundings suited to our individual preferences. It is, however, generally accepted that a quiet, safe, pleasant and orderly environment is most conducive to effective learning.
The learning environment is classified into two (2) sections:
a) The material environment
b) The emotional environment

The material environment
This environment constitutes the framework for learning and can aid in advancing or impeding learning. It is imperative that you exercise extreme care in planning and organising this aspect of your teaching. In the actual classroom setting controlling the material environment involves any number of activities including:
-Arranging lighting
-Seating and layout of teaching aids
-Audio-visual equipment
-Support media
-Displays and charts
-Properly organising yourself helps to establish a learner friendly environment.

Equipment Preparation
This aspect of planning is vital to you, particularly when you are teaching in new or unfamiliar surroundings. Some schools have televisions, video recorders, compact disc players, tape recorders, overhead projectors and other related equipment. However, it is your responsibility to plan and set up your area in advance to ensure a successful lesson. A lesson that is well thought out and planned gives you the opportunity to get technical support where needed, and creates a more comfortable and effective learning environment for both you and your students.

Classroom Seating
Seating arrangements contribute to the effectiveness of classroom management and control. There are several noteworthy factors to consider:
1) Student comfort and view of chalkboard/whiteboard
2) Positioning of teacher€™s desk
3) Freedom of obstruction of audio/visual equipment

Students€™ desks must be positioned appropriately to allow for sufficient workspace and clear view of all classroom aids. The teacher€™s desk, however, must be placed where there is freedom to access the students when necessary, while still maintaining the required room control and a clear vantage point of all activities of the students.

The Emotional Environment
This environment is equally as important as the material environment, however it encompasses such areas as:
-beliefs
-expectations
-tone of voice
-sense of humour
-control techniques
-feelings

Beliefs
Your belief system determines your professional orientation and is linked very strongly as a determinant of a classroom€™s emotional tone. It is generally agreed that teachers who are more resourceful and open minded to students€™ views and self-expression stimulate more desirable behaviours. By contrast, the less resourceful and dictatorial teachers produce opposing behaviours in their students.

Attitudes and Expectations
It is a known fact that a teacher who has a positive attitude, a cheerful disposition, and expects the best from the students is often the recipient of similar attitudes and motivated performances. Also, this teacher has the ability to appraise the abilities and efforts of the students realistically, while also effecting a significant change in attitude and aptitude.

Tone of Voice
Your voice is of paramount importance in creating emotional tone in the classroom. A relaxed, natural, and non-adversarial tone will bring about a similar atmosphere, which fosters positive behaviours that promote learning. Any tone that is contrary to this will create an adversarial and tense environment

Sense of Humour
Another contributing factor to creating an effective learning environment is a teacher with an infectious sense of humour. Humour in the classroom eases tension and will relax both you and the students. It also provides an easy environment in which they can express their feelings and feel comfortable, even when their views may be a bit out of the ordinary. In essence, humour creates a healthy and satisfying learning environment where no disparity in age, sex, or ability is evident.

Control Techniques
The last factor in the emotional environment is control techniques. There are three types of control a teacher can employ: negative, positive, or a combination of both. The positive techniques are a blend of praise, healthy competition and other positive incentives. The negative techniques on the other hand, include threats of punishment, embarrassment, and ignoring of the student€™s needs and concerns. The combination approach focuses on both of the above types to assert effective control. It is obvious that the positive techniques will provide a more favourable environment where effective learning is the result.

Internal and external motivations
Throughout this section, we have determined that each of us is motivated by a number of factors, some internal and others external. The question is what brings about this difference in the types of motivators each of us require? Human beings are a complex species and what stimulates one individual€™s behaviour does nothing to inspire another. e.g. Just think of two siblings raised in the same environment, by the same biological parents. One is highly motivated academically, and needs no prodding to complete homework, while the other has to be threatened, or given incentives to perform. Why is this so? The answer goes back to the very nature of humans, the behaviours of which are constantly under the microscope.

Some students have an innate desire to achieve set goals, accomplish tasks and fulfil dreams, all of which are inspired by internal sensory preceptors. There is little concern or need for praise or rewards from external sources. The drive is the very feeling of success and self-fulfilment of a job well done. Obstacles are viewed as opportunities and setbacks present new challenges. More often than not, this individual has a very positive outlook and is very self-confidant.

On the other hand, some students need the praise, rewards and external stimuli to motivate them to action. While these students are no less confident and positive, they require that guiding hand to stay on track. Their performances are based on the expectancy of recognition and acknowledgement of their accomplishments. While both types of individuals bring various personality challenges to the classroom, they provide a unique blend that stimulates learning for all.