While doing a research for this week’s blog, I came across several websites which equally grabbed my attention. The reason for a tie is that I just spent the last two days attending the company mandated training on the safe work regulations and practices, which got me thinking about how that particular learning environment was created and what could have been done differently to improve the learning experience for my colleagues and myself. Reflecting on what I have learnt thus far on the characteristics of adult learners, Knowles’ “climate setting” immediately came to my mind (Meriam and Bierma, 2014. p. 48-49).
Knowing that the learning environment needs to satisfy the two aspects (physical and psychological) (Meriam and Bierma, 2014. p. 48-49), I asked myself: what would be the best definition of the positive, ideal, and encouraging learning environment?
Even though there are so many websites available that deal with the learning environment issues for the adult learners, I found a word document issued by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority that provided a nice definition of a positive learning environment. “A positive learning environment is one which encourages learners to achieve their potential, identifies and accommodates their individual needs and learning preferences, and deals sensitively with issues that arise within groups” (NZQA, 2013).
Furthermore, in a linked article, Slotnick (2001) wrote an interesting sentence: “Teachers do not teach anything, but if students participate in the learning environments their instructors create, they can learn an awful lot” (Slotnick, 2001).
McDonough (2013) further elaborates that “The environment should encourage intellectual freedom, experimentation, and creativity” (McDonough, 2013).
Boudreau (2012a and 2012b) states that “Ideal learning environments don’t just happen, they’re facilitated by skilled trainers!” (Boudreau, 2012a,b).
In order to determine what is deemed a positive learning environment, I further elaborated on the physical and psychological aspects.
Boudreau (2013) claims that the next 10 physical aspects of the “Ideal Learning Environment” increase your chances for a successful class. The 10 physical aspects that need to be observed are: 1) Ensuring good Air Quality; 2) Scheduling appropriate number of breaks; 3) Ensuring comfort for the learners; 4) Providing healthy food; 5) Ensuring appropriate lighting in the room; 6) Ensure that your personal hygiene is not offensive to others; 7) Ensuring the room is large enough; 8) Ensuring safety of the participants; 9) Eliminating outside distractions; and 10) Allowing for quite/private time. He concluded that “physical distractions have the potential to dampen your efforts to build an ideal learning experience” (Boudreau, 2013).
Coleman (1989) defined three considerations for the physical aspects that contribute to a success of the training sessions: 1) the learning ‘climate’ or “participants’ reaction to the stimuli of the training area”; 2) Physical parts of the training environment such as décor and furniture; and 3) The room design with respect to size and type of space (Coleman, 1989).
In his article from the series on the “Ideal learning environment”, Boudreau (2012a) discusses the ways to create a healthy emotional learning environment. He defined 10 ways as follows: 1) Lead with a positive attitude; 2) Establish an emotionally safe and friendly learning environment; 3) Teach topics that are interesting to you; 4) Focus on the learner; 5) Build trust; 6) Create learning adventures; 7) Encourage supportiveness; 8) Appeal to a variety of senses, using friendly aromas, creative visuals, nature sounds, healthy food and colourful flowers; 9) Use learning circles; and 10) Use music (Boudreau, 2012a).
Gregory (2013) described a quite unique way of building trust and establishing an emotionally safe and friendly learning environment through the use of speed-dating Ice-breaker technique (Gregory, 2013).
Boudreau (2012b) continues his ‘Ideal Learning Environment’ series with the intellectual aspects. According to him, “Each person is a holistic being with an intellectual self that needs nurturing and growth, regardless of his or her ability to read hefty books or use big words”. Therefore, in order to create a healthy intellectual learning environment, one has to use the following 10 pointers: 1) Discover the participants’ intellectual needs and abilities early in the training; 2) Use techniques that keep learners interested; 3) Strive for clarity in all communications; 4) Be knowledgeable about the topics you are teaching: provide accurate information; 5) Tell stories to illustrate points; 6) Provide constructive criticism or feedback, after obtaining permission to do so; 7) Recognize different learning styles (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic) and learner preferences and incorporate them into the training; 8) Make it safe for learners to make mistakes; 9) Acknowledge that everyone is a teacher and a learner; display your willingness to learn from the participants; and 10) Provide learners with strategies to implement their learning (Boudreau, 2012b).
Clapper (2010), for example, elaborates on the importance of creating the safe learning environment from both emotional and intellectual aspects. He states that “we might sometimes feel that we are one step away from potentially being embarrassed by the teacher, or by other learners in the new learning environment”. He emphasized that it is crucial to establish the safe learning environment and explain to his students that we need to allow errors to happen. As we can only learn from the errors if we are in a safe and risk-free learning environment that allows us to take one or two steps back and determine when, where, how and why the error occurred (Clapper, 2010).
While reading about creating the positive learning environment, I reflected on my own teaching techniques. It was quite encouraging to realize that I indeed already use the proper means to create a friendly learning environment. For example, preparing of the training room is always done in advance of the training to suit the type of the training that will occur. We make sure to provide refreshment drinks, coffee and doughnuts for the longer training sessions, and to provide a lunch if the whole day session is held. The group size is appropriate for the training room we have available, thus ensuring the comfort of the trainees.
I always come earlier to the scheduled training and greet all of the participants with a warm smile. Whenever possible, I refer to them by their first name and ask some questions from their lives. In order to keep the employees interested in the training topics, I always provide them with the real examples (story-telling and/or showing pictures).
In training for the metal detector operation, we utilize all three learning styles, namely we prepare the power point presentation and the procedure that is handed out to the employee, we elaborate on the protocol utilized to operate the metal detector, and we also provide hands-on training on the proper operation of the metal detector.
I utilize the group activities for specific training sessions that require employees to enhance specific skills (for example, a role playing is often employed in the training of the new employees).
I will, however, look for additional ways to improve the learning environment, based on the newly acquired knowledge.
And finally, the video of the instructors sharing advice on creating a positive learning environment in an interview with Amelia Horsburgh, Barbara Phillips, Fred Philips, John Kleefeld, Rebekah Bennetch, and Tracie Risling of the University of Saskatchewan can be seen here.
Boudreau, D. (2012a). Creating The Ideal Learning Environment: Emotional. Retrieved on: 19 February 2016. From: http://trainerhub.com/creating-the-ideal-learning-environment-emotional/
Boudreau, D. (2012b). Creating The Ideal Learning Environment: Intellectual. Retrieved on: 19 February 2016. From: http://trainerhub.com/creating-the-ideal-learning-environment-intellectual/
Boudreau, D. (2013). Creating The Ideal Learning Environment: Physical. Retrieved on: 19 February 2016. From: http://trainerhub.com/creating-the-ideal-learning-environment-physical/
Clapper, T. C. (2010). Creating the safe learning environment. PAILAL, 3(2), 1-6. Retrieved on: 20 February 2016. From: http://tccid.dover.net/Creating%20the%20safe%20learning%20environment.pdf
Coleman, F. (1989). A Room of One’s Own. Training & Development Journal. Volume: 43. Issue: 11 Page number: 31+. © American Society for Training & Development, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1989 Gale Group. Retrieved on: 20 February 2016. From: https://www.questia.com/read/1G1-7922606/a-room-of-one-s-own
Gregory, C. (2013). Love the One You’re With: Creating a Classroom Community. Faculty Focus. Retrieved on: 19 February 2016. From: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/love-the-one-youre-with-creating-a-classroom-community/
McDonough, D. (2013). Similarities and Differences between Adult and Child Learners as Participants in the Natural Learning Process. Psychology. 2013. Vol.4, No.3A, 345-348. Retrieved on: 07 February 2016. From: dx.doi.org/10.4236/psych.2013.43A050
Merriam, S. B. & Bierema, L. L. (2014). Adult learning. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons
New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) (2016). Create and maintain a positive learning environment for adult learners. Retrieved on: 19 February 2016. From: http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/nqfdocs/units/doc/7115.doc
Slotnick, H.B. (2001). For Adult Learners Only. Retrieved on: 20 February 2016. From: http://meetingsnet.com/adult-learning/adult-learners-only-0
The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness: Creating a Positive Learning Environment. Published on 09-Apr-2013. Retrieved on: 20-Feb-2016. From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqNCiNMuDOs