15 Sep, 2017
10 : 00
Inhoping to provide children with the best possible education, an emphasis is often given to choosing the right curriculum or finding a school that boasts impressive test scores. Though while it’s certainly important to examine these factors, there’s another necessary, and often overlooked,consideration that greatly impacts student learning and achievement – the environment.
Anecdotal evidence has long suggested a link between learning environment and learning outcomes, yet research is now more and more supporting those claims. A recent study at The University of Salford even found that the classroom environment can affect student’s learning and academic progress by as much as 25%.
But what does this mean for teachers and parents? How can learning environments be shaped to best nurture students and improve learning outcomes? Devreaux Poole, Learning and Teaching Coordinator at Yew Chung International School of Beijing, explains what actions can be taken in classrooms and at home to provide students with the environment most conducive to deep learning and growth.
The most important thing when considering the physical layout of a learning environment is to understand that all students are different. Some children will prefer to work in quiet spaces, for example, while other children feel energized through group work. Additionally, the same student often finds that varying environments help them to better perform different tasks – for maths they may want to sit quietly at their desk, while they find that sitting on a beanbag chair helps them better connect with their English material.
It’s important for teachers and parents to realize how these external elements affect students’ ability to concentrate and engage in deep learning. Factors such as lighting, colours, cleanliness, and ambient noise all affect students in different ways. So ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all model. The key instead is to have a variety of options, through which learners can cycle or adjust according to the task at hand.
Just as it’s important to keep an organized mind, it’s also important to keep an organized learning environment. Furniture should be kept in good condition so that students are able to feel comfortable and relaxed enough to stay focused on their studies.
In a classroom environment, an organized seating arrangement is also necessary so that teachers maintain a good vantage point from which to view their student’s work habits. Proper desk or workstation placement allow teachers to walk freely around the classroom and to focus on individual students when needed.
Both in school and at home, the psychological environment is equally important as the physical one. Teachers and parents should maintain a calm and supportive approach in dealing with students, without which, children could risk academic-related anxiety, poor grades and rebellious behaviour.
Positivity is also a key ingredient to a successful learning environment. When feeling supported, the learning experience becomes a happy experience, through which students are more apt to take risks and feel confident in their decisions.
Finally, teachers and parents should establish and apply consistent rules for learners. Students should be aware of what’s expected from them and the consequences for failing to maintain those standards. Having such a framework can actually allow students to operate more freely and creatively – because knowing the guidelines, they’re no longer hesitant or apprehensive to take chances.
At YCIS Beijing, Learning Communities are now being implemented throughout the kindergarten, Primary and Secondary divisions. This is due to an appreciation of learning environments as one of the central factors in student achievement.
Yet an additional benefit to the Learning Community model is that students themselves are able to see the effect that the environment has on their learning – which was not an obvious insight in the traditional classroom. If students are struggling with an assignment, they’re now less prone to feel that they’re poor learners, but rather, to consider that they simply need to change their environment in order to better engage with the material.
Through proper setup of the learning environment, students are achieving better results, and through understanding the power that environment has on one’s focus and concentration, students are becoming more self-reflective and better able to produce their own learning outcomes.