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7 Steps to Building a Productive Learning Environment

According to Dr Becky Cox of UTM, The Ideal Classroom is “a positive place where a student can come to work toward specific goals set before them in the class objectives. The teacher is to be positive, organized, outgoing, confident, and compassionate.”

Simply put, an ideal classroom is one that has the students identifying meaningful problems and solving them through creative means. In this type of classroom, students feel like they are not just in school for the sake of it, but take on roles and initiatives in the society that apply their classroom knowledge. Their Teacher/Educator/Instructor also plays a huge role in this as they are key to fostering productivity in students.

For more information on Ideal Classrooms, check out this article on Thought Co

Now, classroom productivity is not focused on output or speed of delivery of assignments. Although those factors are important, they are not as important as knowing that what has been taught has been fully assimilated by the students and that they can apply what they have learned in any situation. 

“Never mistake motion for action” - Ernest Hemingway

Here are some tips to help you create a positive and productive learning environment for your students:

Incorporate Fun into your Teaching method

We don’t mean pop quizzes (as someone who graduated years ago, the sound of those words strung together still scares me).

An example of such fun ways to learn is seen when you’re teaching a topic like Climate change. It may be very easy to throw words like Greenhouse gases, Global warming, Ozone Layer depletion, and UV rays, at the students, but they may not understand the impact if you don’t explain in simpler, relatable terms.

children-studying

Create comic strips, animations or even watch a movie that’s related to what you’re talking about in class and have students discuss it after. You can even create a treasure hunt with a map that can only be deciphered by solving clues, riddles, and hints you gave in class.

Build a Safe Environment

A productive classroom is one in which the students feel safe and free to share their thoughts, no matter how crazy they may sound. It’s essentially a no-judgment zone by you, the Teacher.

In this kind of environment, students’ input matters, from how the classroom is arranged/designed, to group project ideas - your students have a say in how everything works.

What this translates for you as a teacher, is that you will have fewer decisions to make and your students will feel like active participants in their learning process, since they are allowed to make important decisions.

Another way to do build a safe environment is to implement some form of a ‘Class Mission Statement’. As with all mission statements, this would give everyone clarity into what they must achieve at the end of the school year. What’s most important is that the creation of this statement must be as inclusive as possible.

Read more: How to Create a Classroom Mission Statement

Listen to your Students/Be open to Feedback

Why do people dislike feedback? Could it be because it exposes some of the flaws we know about ourselves or just that we don’t trust the source of feedback? That’s a question to ponder on.

Feedback, when it is properly collected, could be what makes or break a successful system. In this case, after being evaluated by your students, it is up to you to decide on the next steps to take - whether you’re going to ignore it or do something about it.

If you get all glowing reviews from your students, it means you’re doing everything right and you should either maintain it or amp up the volume on what it is you’re doing. On the other hand, if you receive negative feedback, take it as an opportunity to do better before your next assessment.

You can set up a system to receive feedback at the end of every lesson/activity or at the end of the week. As with every tool you implement, it should be quite easy for your students to use and not intrusive in any way. You can try collecting Anonymous feedback if that would make them more open to sharing.

The best part is, when your students come around the next class/time and see that their complaints have been addressed/fixed, they’ll be open to sharing even more. 

Read more: Anatomy of a Feedback Form

Encourage Collaboration Among Students

Working in isolation is boring, particularly when it can be avoided. Two heads are better one right?

Working in groups can be instructional and effective, but only if it is productive, which is what we’re aiming for in our classrooms. There has to be actual learning and collaboration, not just a drive to complete the assignment for grades.

students-studying

Start by clarifying the intent of the group - if you must set expectations for the students, do so; what would even be better is if you allow them set these expectations for themselves and then encourage them to work towards it. 

Don’t be tempted to create Homogenous groups, that is groups where the students have similar abilities and weaknesses. Heterogeneous groups have a better impact on the student’s psyche particularly if the students with higher GPAs don’t take over the project.

In essence, a model where all students contribute is what really creates collaborative learning. This is what makes for a Productive group work.

Read more: Not Just Group Work -- Productive Group Work!

Reinforce Positive Behaviours

Productive classrooms are exemplified by positive behaviors, such as a strong will to succeed and help others do so.

By learning to identify and reinforce some of those positive behaviors, Educators can produce what may be termed as Ripple effect in the classroom. It strengthens their motivation to succeed, while also creating that productive learning environment we are keen on.

Certificates, Gift Cards, Movie tickets, and tokens are great gifts that go a long way to strengthening their inner motivation. Students will continue producing more positive actions and exhibiting positive behaviors.

Read more: Positive reinforcement in the classroom examples

Up to Date Curriculum/ Teaching Methods

This boils down to relevance and relatability - that is “How relevant is this topic to me/society currently?” and “In what ways can I relate to this issue?”

The more relevance a topic or subject has to a student’s success, the more that student will be engaged in the learning process.

Whatever the subject, Mathematics, Economics, Physics, History, etc, as an educator, you need to find ways to adapt the lesson to the interests of students.

If possible and if your resources permit, you can also discover the interests, talents, and learning styles of each student. Once you know this and if you can, adjust teaching methods and strategies to meet the needs of students on an individual basis. In no time, you'll see students become more attentive and engaged in your classroom.

Be There for Them

As with every phase in life, students will struggle with academic work and their personal life and when they do, they’ll need support and encouragement. With academic work, once they get stuck on something, they will ask technical questions and may share their doubts. Sometimes, they may feel pressure to keep up with their classmates.

In their personal life, they may struggle with confusion, frustration, and feelings of inadequacy. In the end, they’ll want to know that there’s someone listening to them and looking out for them.

And that’s where you come in - with your open mind and the right words, you can change it all and be a guide to your students in their school experiences.

A lady shared this video of how she reunited with her teacher who believed in her and invited her to her Harvard graduation.

This story is so encouraging shows that your words as an educator have a lasting impact.

Like Rome, being a good teacher and creating a productive classroom is not done in a day. It would require a lot of work and collaboration; reach out to others who can support you  - teachers, educators, friends, and family. In the end, productive students will go far in life and guess who they’ll have to thank for helping them in their formative years? You guessed right, you!

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