Designing a Learning Environment

a. Physical space. The physical space of my learning environment looks warm and inviting. The teacher has two areas that are mainly for her only, one being her desk and the other being the area that her computer is in which is connected to the board. However, students also have access to the computer. The students have their own individual desks as well as three different size tables in the back of the room in which they are able to choose where they’d like to sit. For the most part, during direct instruction, the teacher asks the students to stay in their individual desks since they face the board and are the closest. However, if a student(s) feel so inclined as to move their seat, they’re allowed to do so. One back table in particular has space for the teacher to join since it’s the shape of a horseshoe. However, the teacher could join either of the two round tables as well. The teacher enjoys having the three tables in the back because it gives students a sense of control over their learning by choosing the area and seat that best suits their individual learning needs.

Although I’m not the best artist in the world, I decided to physically draw the physical space so that the learning environment that I’ve been explaining can come to life.

Excursion23.HEIC

b. Student autonomy. The students have a decent amount of autonomy regarding their workspace and their own learning. Students are able to choose an area and seat in the learning environment that best suits their individual learning needs. On the other hand, their own learning is controlled a bit more by the teacher regarding their small group placement and certain content and assignments. Under the hexagon of cooperative freedom, the article discussed the many pros and cons to such a topic. Although it may seem easier to mold one way of doing everything and having students follow those same patterns, coming up with choices and freedom will benefit learning environments in the long run. The hexagon of cooperative freedom consists of time, place, content, medium, access, and pace. Although the article suggests that a seventh area of relationships should be added. In regard to time, an assignment as a whole should be presented to students as well as a schedule of due dates both blank and filled in. Once students understand an assignment in its entirety, you should give them a blank schedule and allow them to determine the amount of time they think it’ll take them to break the task up and complete it by a certain date, say two months from now as an example. It’ll be interesting to see the many schedules you’ll receive as it may take some students all two months while it’ll take others two days to complete. Part of this difference has to do with the different types of learners that make up your learning environment. Others may want a filled in schedule otherwise having too much freedom will hurt them in the long run. Students have the freedom to choose the place in the learning environment that they’ll complete their best learning. Students have somewhat freedom when it comes to content. Since certain material is required to be taught, the freedom that’ll exist will consist of analyzing their prior knowledge and assessing what content they need to be taught. Perhaps a refresher is critical in furthering their education while others may be beyond their grade level content. Students will be encouraged to work with different mediums in order to complete their assignments and find the one that works best for their learning style. Students will have access to a lot in the learning environment. For example, access to the majority of the learning environment, access to assignments ahead of time and more. Lastly, pace and time will go together since students will be able to work at their own pace to a certain extent. Deadlines will be given but students will have the freedom to work at their own speed until the assignment is complete. Overall, although plans will be put into action, freedom looks like the learning environment being open to change in order to better support each students learning preferences. The teacher will be open to alterations if the student is able to elaborate on why this action should take place. The teacher will be able to help students determine what they know and don’t know through individual planning and check-ins throughout the learning environment.

c. Cooperative student learning. The students are working together in order for the learning environment to flourish. Students will be placed in small flexible groups in order to work together. The groups are flexible because as student’s needs change, so will the group that they’re placed in. Students will work with other students during small group instruction and group work time. Students will work alone during the independent application of lessons in order for the teacher to gain a greater idea as to what students have mastered and what may need to be re-taught before moving on to the next lesson. The cooperative learning will ensure a mix of individual flexibility as well as being a part of their learning community. Some examples of the types of work they will be doing in this learning environment consist of being a part of different networks. For examples, students will sometime have different small groups based on their learning needs for each individual subject. They may be with one network for math but another for reading. Their cooperative learning environments will ensure that each individual strives in the group independently while feeling a certain connection to their community. For example, during reading groups, students don’t have to volunteer but it will be encouraged. Students will be learning in a small group setting but will take turns reading to the teacher independently so that the teacher may assess how the student is doing individually and if the teacher should make any changes to better suit the students learning needs. Lastly, the teacher will promote collaboration amongst the community by sending students off with assignments to work on with their network followed by individual tasks to check for mastery. Another example would consist of collaborating at the beginning of the school year to discuss and put into effect a set of classroom rules for all to abide by.

    • Gerald Ardito
      Gerald Ardito

      Amanda,

      You have clearly given the issue of a learning environment a great deal of thought. Good for you.

      Throughout your response, I was very struck by how you have integrated (in your thinking at least) student needs, community building, and learning into one whole. For example, you said:

      Although it may seem easier to mold one way of doing everything and having students follow those same patterns, coming up with choices and freedom will benefit learning environments in the long run. 

      and

      The cooperative learning will ensure a mix of individual flexibility as well as being a part of their learning community.

      Are these things you are already doing in your classroom? Or are these more aspirational in nature? I would love to know more about the specific practices and routines you employ to create and maintain this type of learning environment.

      • Amanda Tsaktsirlis
        Amanda Tsaktsirlis

        Although I don't have my own classroom yet, I do my best to implement these changes throughout my student teaching placement. So for now they're half being used and half aspirational for my future classroom. 

        • Heidi Anthony
          Heidi Anthony

          Hello Amanda, 

          I think the key words teachers should think about when creating a learning environment are warm and inviting. It is important for students to feel welcome when they are in the classroom. This allows students to be more engaged and helps to promote student/student and student/teacher collaboration. This allows students to learn effectively through interaction with their peers and teachers. It allows them to be active participants in their own learning. 

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