Author: Sandhya Basu
Ram and Shyam are classmates. They go to a nice-looking school in the city. The walls of the school are decorated with bright colors and huge posters with great sayings. The school is also well-ventilated. In academics, Ram and Shyam are both particularly good at grasping concepts in mathematics. However, they both face difficulties in Chemistry. They try extremely hard to understand its concepts but somehow end up getting poor marks in exams.
Can you guess the reason behind their inability to understand concepts in Chemistry? Is it Ram and Shyam’s poor aptitude for Chemistry at play? Or can their learning environment for Chemistry be the culprit?
A learning environment is a space where individuals can interact and engage with each other to become competent in various fields. It typically comprises the following: a) individuals and their characteristics; b) objective or goals for the learners; c) various activities that complement learning; d) assessment strategies to measure learning; e) and an atmosphere where individuals feel emotionally safe. For example, the classes under the Brighter Minds Program enable children to advance their cognitive skills and become empathetic and intuitive, i.e., individuals learn an array of exercises that promote their emotional growth.
Psychological factors, in association with social, physical, and cultural domains, are one of the main elements of a learning environment. The learning environment may not thrive if there are psychological apprehensions. For example, if an individual feels a significant amount of stress in his learning environment, then the learning process will get affected: the learning environment will not serve its purpose.
An ideal learning environment will encourage a sense of support through interactions among learners and teachers. We often consider teaching and learning as independent entities. However, for an ideal learning environment, teaching and learning should go hand in hand. Such an environment also leads to active learning in individuals.
Another characteristic of an ideal learning environment would include a curiosity-driven space. It will create an environment where the learners will actively ask questions and quench their curiosity. However, some studies state that learners often come to a learning environment with negligible interest. It is then the task of the teachers to induce and instigate the spirit of inquiry among them. The role of teachers, hence, plays an essential part in the learning environment. As APJ Abdul Kalam stated, “The creativity is indeed the result of the education process and the environment of the school and above all the teachers’ capability igniting the minds of the students. The essence of it can be seen in the following verses: Learning gives creativity, Creativity leads to thinking, Thinking provides knowledge, Knowledge makes you great.”
Another aspect of a learning environment includes giving importance to the questions over answers. Learners asking questions suggest that they have not only gained interest in a particular topic, but they also want to know more. This is the point where the process of learning actually starts. Learning can also take place from various resources. Gone are those days when learning was bounded between the four walls of a classroom and a blackboard. Newer studies show the importance of various learning aids like informative videos, speeches by famous personalities of a particular field, actual experiments in the lab, home projects, etc.
Moreover, it is of utmost importance that the learners have an emotionally-sound space in the learning environment: space where their emotions will be acknowledged and respected, and where they feel safe psychologically. Such learners tend to learn more and contribute to the learning environment. An environment where there is bullying, for example, degrades a learning environment. Academic places like schools need to make sure that they have zero tolerance for bullying of any sort to create an ideal learning space.
We often miss out talking about the first learning environment: home. Our home environment complements our child’s development, especially in the first few years. It shapes the development of our child’s character and mental health, also forms a foundation for further learning. Hence, as parents or caregivers, it is of utmost importance that we cater to our child’s needs with love and encouragement that will instill the willingness to learn among our children.
Additionally, the learning environment significantly highlights the importance of school-teachers when the child starts going to a school. Active learning can also take place when parents and teachers collaborate and discuss the child’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential. This collaboration also empowers unique insights on the child’s personality style to mould the learning environment accordingly to the child’s requirements.
Hence, apart from the physical infrastructure, we now the five pillars of the ideal learning space:
- Interwoven process of teaching and learning
- Curiosity-driven environment
- Effective role of teacher
- Learning aids
- Emotionally-sound space
Going back to Ram and Shyam’s story, we may never know why they had difficulties in understanding Chemistry. But now, we know how to promote their interests in that subject so that they can learn more effectively. We can make the learning interactive by talking about famous experiments and its implications to the society (the first pillar); we can instigate questions from their side (the second and the third pillars); we can take them to laboratories and experiment with the theoretical concepts (the forth pillar); and cater to their individual learning difficulties so that they don’t feel left-out in the class (the fifth pillar).
- Characteristics of a Positive Learning Environment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/characteristics-of-a-positive-learning-environment
- Team, N. (2019, July 27). Remembering APJ Abdul Kalam And His Vision For Teachers In India. Retrieved from https://www.ndtv.com/education/apj-abdul-kalam-apj-abdul-kalams-vision-for-teachers-in-india-2076308
- Staff, T. (2020, April 17). 10 Characteristics Of A Highly Effective Learning Environment. Retrieved from https://www.teachthought.com/learning/10-characteristics-of-a-highly-effective-learning-environment/
- Connecting Home and School. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2020, from https://www.scholastic.com/parents/school-success/school-involvement/connecting-home-and-school.html