You know that feeling you get when you are in the zone – productivity is radiating from you, and you can see that light bulb switch on in your mind. The eureka moment that encompasses you when you know you are on track for success.
Now, stay with that feeling… but take a step back. Notice all the elements that surround you as you are learning. The environment around you that is helping streamline your focus.
Is it calm and solitary? Peacefully quiet with no distractions? Or are you in a buzzing atmosphere, like a cafe or board room, bouncing ideas off other chatterboxes?
Everyone has a setting where they can absorb information the best and focus on the task at hand. And this may vary depending on what you are learning. As a teacher (and a student), it’s important to recognize and create a conducive learning environment that caters to the needs of all types of learners.
Have you ever thought about what your ideal learning environment is?
There are many different types of learning environments, and these days there are multiple platforms – both virtual and in-person designs – which facilitate good learning practices and habits.
Are you trying to keep your students more engaged with what they are learning, and develop efficient learning strategies for your classroom?
Use this guide to discover the various types of learning environments, best practices, and a free template to create the ideal learning environment for your students:
- What is a conducive learning environment?
- Types of learning environments
- Best practices for creating an ideal learning environment
- Final thoughts
It’s no secret that our surroundings affect us in more ways than one – subconsciously the environment we place ourselves in has a huge impact on how we absorb information.
The environment we are in can either spark or dwindle our concentration. It can inspire us to focus or diminish our productivity on the task at hand.
A conducive learning environment consists of a setting that supports learners’ goals, thoughts, and ideas. It’s a positive space that aids the smooth and efficient strategies of teaching and learning. A conducive learning environment considers the physical, psychological, social, and cultural needs of learners, and what they require to achieve success.
Creating a conducive learning space that easily facilitates learning not only benefits the students, but it also makes the teacher’s life a heck of a lot easier… teachers will also find it much more enjoyable to teach students who are focused, happy, and comfortable in their ideal learning environment.
Now that we have established what the foundation of a conducive learning environment consists of, how do you create one with your students?
The answer varies – it all depends on your students and the material they are learning. With that said, depending on the learning environment, there are some practices to keep in mind to ensure your student’s success.
No matter the setting, all types of learning environments promote meaningful learning and the well-being of students. The characteristics of the learning environment are what can differ, with each space having its own essential elements.
There are seven types of learning environments that have their own unique attributes:
A physical learning environment is where there are face-to-face interactions with people, and learning is centered through active participation from everyone.
This setting usually involves a regular space with an arranged meeting time. A physical learning environment typically emphasizes the role of a teacher to conduct lessons and to lead oral discussions.
This type of in-person environment promotes connection between other students and learning through being engaged in the physical environment around you.
Virtual learning continues to evolve with the rapid expansion of technology and can differ depending on the material that is being taught.
Also known as eLearning, this environment typically allows students to learn at their own pace. In these environments, students have a ton of options when it comes to their preferred learning style: e-learning can use various devices such as computers, tablets, or mobile devices.
While some forms of online learning operate similarly to physical learning (with a designated time and lecture-style of teaching), most virtual learning settings allow students to have greater autonomy.
A learner-centered learning environment allows students to bring their own unique beliefs, attitudes, skills, cultural backgrounds, and knowledge to the table.
This type of learning places an emphasis on the needs of students and builds the structure of the class around what students already know. A learner-centered learning environment advocates for students to share their own experiences, with the teacher then filling the gap between new learning and what students already know.
This kind of learning style gives students control of the learning process and the content they consume.
A knowledge-centered learning environment applies learning in a practical manner to the outside world. This type of learning uses real-world examples that support deep analysis and generative learning.
This environment gives students the opportunity to reflect on their ideas, and a respectful place for further discussions.
Knowledge-centered learning environments have a clear outline for what is anticipated from students to achieve their learning goals, and students are provided feedback on how to accomplish this.
A formal learning environment is when material is taught in a systematic intentional way. Lessons are predetermined and there is a strict structure to the course and what students are expected to learn.
Formal learning typically consists of face-to-face interactions along with an organized activity and curriculum in a classroom setting. Formal learning environments can also be guided by an instructor in an online setting.
On the other hand, an informal learning environment is completely the opposite of a formal environment – lessons are usually unstructured, spontaneous, and very often unintentional.
This style favors a non-traditional format (i.e., outside the classroom), and does not have a standardized program, schedule, or curriculum. An informal learning environment goes along well with a learner-centered environment, as discussions flow with students’ knowledge and ideas around topics.
Discussion forums (which can take place in-person or online) are an example of informal learning, as the discussion can branch out in many different directions or sub-threads.
A mixed learning environment blends different components of the learning types all together into a unique environment that entirely depends on the desired learning goal of the course.
For example, a mixed learning environment can be a combination of physical and online learning, with other styles of learning intertwined to suit the learning needs of students.
An ideal learning environment is one where students feel safe and supported in all aspects of their learning. A positive atmosphere enables learners to be able to effectively engage with the material that is presented to them.
This is vital to guarantee the success of your students! Ensuring that learners’ have a safe environment that suits their needs will allow them to feel comfortable with expanding their curiosity and knowledge and encourage them to meet their learning goals.
Learning environments provide students with the opportunity to absorb information and build connections that support their learning. They provide a space for students to discover the full potential of their abilities, and a welcoming atmosphere where students can feel comfortable and gain self-confidence in learning.
Outlined below are the most important tips to follow to create an ideal learning environment:
To have a positive learning space, it’s imperative to create a warm, friendly, and relaxed environment that is welcoming and inclusive to everyone. When a learning environment has a positive and uplifting atmosphere, it will make students more inclined to stay engaged and motivated to learn.
Modeling social and emotional competencies will guide students in how to treat others in the class and help students be respectful.
Some tips for creating a positive atmosphere for a physical learning environment:
- Arranging the seating in an open manner allows for connections with other students. Where students are seated can greatly impact their learning, behaviour, and performance.
- Introduce warm lightning in the class to create a friendly environment.
- Adjust noise levels to something that is appropriate for what you are teaching and ensure that outside sounds won’t be a distraction for your students.
- Optimize your space by adding your own special touches that are personal to you or showcase some of the material that is being taught, to create a welcoming environment.
Some tips for creating a positive atmosphere for an online learning environment:
- Make sure everyone has their cameras and microphones turned on if it’s a live lecture or discussion.
- Introduce an icebreaker so that everyone has a chance to introduce themselves and speak on camera.
- Provide outside resources for your students and be readily available to answer their questions at appropriate times during the day.
- Record class meetings/lectures so students who weren’t in attendance are still able to engage with the material being taught.
- Start an online buddy system so that students have a classmate to turn to if they have questions.
Creating a positive atmosphere for your students develops an initial level of trust right off the bat, and it will encourage students to turn to you when they need. Don’t be afraid to but your own personal touch on creating a welcoming environment for learners.
Encourage your students to tap into their creative mindsets and take risks with their learning… when you gently push students out of their comfort zone, it helps them grow in ways they may not even realize at first.
Also, make sure your students are asking questions – meaningful learning happens when students are curious! Spark their curiosity and get them to ask questions they don’t know the answer to… this encourages productive and effective classroom discussions. Giving students the freedom to voice their curiosity will lead to more enthusiastic and passionate conversations.
Make it known to your students that asking questions is more valuable than having the answers to those questions. Asking questions allows students to increase their critical thinking skills and shift their perspective to a new mindset. It allows the class to explore topics more in-depth and stay engaged while doing so.
Creating a habit out of getting students to challenge their learning goals and ask questions they may not know the answer will help them stay focused and motivated to continue learning.
Everyone has different preferences and ways of doing things. Offering your students the flexibility to learn with their preferred style will ultimately lead to them better understanding the material and meeting their learning goals.
Allowing students the option to choose their preferred assessment type or varying the types of assessment given can make all the difference – it supports diverse learning styles and levels. It’s important to not single out students in a group setting (this could be discouraging), so offering different options for assessment throughout the course allows for students to reduce their stress or anxiety levels.
Having an inclusive course shows that the teacher supports the wellbeing of their students and proves that the individual success of students’ learning is important to them.
Course differentiation also refers to ensuring various learning models are used. By diversifying the types of learning environments – in-person, eLearning, learner-centered, informal, etc. – students can stay engaged through the varying learning approaches.
To create an ideal learning environment, it may also be beneficial to provide a variety of ways to engage in learning independently or collaboratively. This flexibility allows students to find out which model best supports their learning needs and goals.
Any environment that supports the success of others will encourage leadership and adaptability. This provides students with a challenge, and to step outside of their comfort zone. It helps them build new skill sets (even if they are not particularly interested in being a leader in the subject) and encourages them to take on some new responsibilities.
Leadership also aids students in working together and fostering a collaborative learning environment. It helps establish connections between learners, in turn creates a comfortable and familiar learning environment.
The uses of social engagement through providing leadership opportunities allows students to thrive in their own unique ways, and it assists them in reaching their learning goals – and even going beyond what they sought to achieve.
Being able to change and adapt to your environment is not only a valuable life skill to have, but it also promotes a sense of achievement and accomplishment.
An essential component of an ideal learning environment includes student reflection and assessments. This is a great way for teachers to understand the level of learning students are at, and what gaps need to be filled in or reached. This allows for everyone to stay on the same page and ensure that no one falls behind.
Sometimes assessments can be intimidating, which is why self-assessments are a fantastic way for students to communicate how they are feeling with the material they are being taught. Providing these student check-ins regularly can allow for the teacher to stay informed of the engagement levels in their classroom.
It may be advantageous to provide a range of different kinds of assessments, such as activity-based, oral, written, or group projects for example. This keeps students engaged and supports a variety of learning styles.
Reflection and the self-assessment of learning are not only a thorough measure of how students are achieving, but also a good way for the teacher to gauge how they are performing.
Creating an ideal learning environment for your students is something that through practice – and trial and error – you will find what works best for your style of teaching and your students.
Everyone has a setting where they can absorb information the best, and the foundation of an ideal learning environment is a positive learning environment that supports learners’ goals, thoughts, and ideas. Keep in mind that a conducive learning environment considers the physical, psychological, social, and cultural needs of learners, and what they require to achieve success.
There are many different types of learning environments, and you may find one that suits your teaching needs, or you may mix a few of them together to find the perfect learning environment for your students.
Try implementing different practices in your space to create a welcoming atmosphere where students can feel comfortable and gain self-confidence with their learning.
You will be able to get a precise measure on the effectiveness of your learning environment from your students: Are they happy and thriving? Do they feel comfortable coming to you with questions? What are your student interactions like? Is your course atmosphere positive, inclusive, and welcoming?
Ask yourself these questions to determine if you need to make any changes or adjustments to your space to create an ideal learning environment.