About The Thrivapy Blog

I created The Thrivapy Blog to share my thoughts and ideas about living a learning lifestyle.

For more, visit my website: www.thrivapy.com
Thank You,
Dr. Troy P. Roddy

Friday, December 5, 2014

Creating Great Learning Environments in 2015

I recently wrote a piece about learning environments in which I proposed that the best ones are based on relationshiops, not rules. As a follow up, here are a few tips you can use to create a better learning environment in your class or home in 2015.

1. Know the difference between a "rule" and a "procedure."

Limit your rules. Fewer rules are more likely to be remembered and are easier to reference when needed. A rule creates boundaries. Procedures create clarity or order.

2. Make being friendly a priority.

Smile, greet, shake hands, eye contact, make your learning space warm and inviting.

3. Be  responsive.

Students want your attention and will do what they need to in order to get it. Be mindful of what you respond to and how that establishes habits of behavior in students.

4. Interact

Your class is NOT a platform to show how much you know. It is an opportunity to show how much you care. Often that looks like a place where both student and teacher work together ot accomplish learning goals. Dominating the landscape and not allowing students to engage with you limits interaction and sends the signal that you are the most important person in the room.

5. Reliable

In research, reliability is the ability of an instrument to produce consistent results each time. For example, measuring length with a ruler will produce consistent results every time. For classes, reliability helps remove ambiguity, provides clarity, and establishes security. Your approach to helping students in need, managing difficult situations, giving feedback, etc. is much more effective when reliability is established and a consistent method is employed. In other words, when students tend to most need your invovlement, more effective relationships are likely to form when you are reliable in your methods.

6. Trustworthy

Being trustworthy is, in some ways, similar to being reliable. It is hard to be trustworthy without being reliable. However, I believe trustworthiness requires one essential piece that differentiates it from reliability. In education, trust is established when there is no doubt in the mind of the student that you are driven by the desire to serve the student's needs first. When making decisions, ask yourself, "Does this make my job easier or does it help students learn better?" If it does both, great! If not, choose the student's needs over your comfort. After all, that is why they call you, "teacher."

7. People first, then tasks

There is no shortage of tasks that need to get done. This fact makes it easy to get caught up in the completion of those tasks and forget that, ultimately, if the tasks do not support your efforts to build relationships and help others, you risk isolation and fracturing the trust you have established. When in doubt, serve the needs of the person in front of you. When people and policy seem to come into conflict, choose the person. Policies that gets in the way of establishing relationships need to be reviewed and possibly re-written.

8. Encourage sharing

Find oppportunities to allow students to share what they are learning and making with their peers. Feaar of cheating is not a reason to discourage sharing. It can be, however, a reason for you to clearly define what cheating is and when sharing is appropriate. When in doubt, assume sharing is appropriate. Even better, make sharing part of your class routine and work with students to establish procedures for sharing.

9. Allow problem solving

Encouraging problem solving is easier when you remove barriers to problem solving and asllow it to happen. My experience has been that students will "announce" their problems instead of "solving" thenm because they need permission to act. The need for permission is a result of a fear of breaking the rules. Consider a problem solving procedure that allows students to take action without permission under certain clear conditions (takes less than a minute to do, does not involve disrupting others, etc.).

10. Provide useful feedback

Useful feedback is an essential part of any great learning environment. Use the following criteria for providing useful feedback to students.

A. Align your feedback to the essential question. If the student cannot make the connection between your feedback and the learning objective, your feedback may need to be adjusted to help make that connection.

B. Point out at least one example of how the student is understanding the concept or doing well. This helps build confidence and provides an area of strength from which the student can move forward.

C. Clearly indicate the most essential areas in need of improvement. If possible, limit this to the one or towo areas that, if improved, would result in the most immediate positive results.

D. How will you help? Remember, helps is what the student needs not what you want to provide. When indicating how you will help, make sure the help is what is actually needed. 

11. Design matters

Finally, look at your classroom. Does it speak to a space conducive to the learnign goals you hope to achieve? Is it set up for collaborative problem solving and knowledge creation? Are there elements that promote exploring and making? There are many resources online to help you get ideas about how to transform your classroom space. Take some time to investigate the possibilities and then brign them back to your class and involve the students in creating some design elements to try out.

Thank you for a wonderful 2014 and all the best to you in 2015!