Learning Environments

The third standard of the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium, Learning Environments, states that teachers must work together to design learning environments that foster individual and group learning, use strategies to actively engage students in the learning process, and promote self-motivation as well as healthy social interactions in a shared learning environment. The purpose of this standard is to ensure that all students are provided with a safe place to learn and that all of the components of the student’s academic, behavioral, and social well-being are respected, nourished, and promoted through their learning experiences.

The first step in creating such an environment begins with a proactive teacher collaborating with members of the academic community to determine student’s needs. Prior to the school year, safety guidelines, rules and procedures, a crisis action plan, and a generalized understanding of how the classroom is expected to function as a whole, as well as identifying the roles of each individual member of the class must be a priority. During my internship experience at Berkeley Glenn Elementary School, I developed a classroom management plan which included a purpose statement, procedures, consequences, a crisis plan, and an action plan, as well as five easy to understand rules shown to the right. After collaborating with my supervising teacher, I developed these rules to help build a foundation for a learning environment that promotes responsibility, accountability, positive interactions, safety, and respect for others [Performances 3(A)&3(C)].

Additionally, teachers must learn how to communicate with students in a manner that demonstrates responsiveness to cultural diversity and differing learning perspectives to ensure the needs of all members of the classroom are being met in their learning environment [Performances 3(F)]. Furthermore, teachers must collaborate with the student to develop interpersonal skills which allow the student to grow and develop into effective communicators while increasing their learning capacity [Performances 3(H)]. In this image, I can be seen working one-on-one with a student in a shared learning environment that has been designed to give everyone not only a sense of safety and comfort, but extensive efforts were made to make sure learning can take place, regardless of the student’s diverse academic, cultural, and social needs.

Another component of Learning Environments includes the teacher understanding the relationship between engagement and motivation and uses this knowledge to create learning activities that build self-direction and gives students the opportunities to take ownership of their learning [Essential Knowledge 3(I)]. One strategy I have used to meet this criterion includes guiding students through reader’s theatre activities in which a group of students will perform for another class the materials they’ve been reading and acting with me each week. The image above shows a group of fifth-grade students performing for the members of my fourth-grade classroom. Students are often thrilled to show what they’ve learned to their peers and it helps them become increasingly more comfortable in their learning environments.

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