Model for the Creation of
Meaningful Community College Learning Experiences
a Learning-Centered PHYSICAL Environment
have all experienced the sluggishness that goes with a rainy gray
day. Or lack of enthusiasm when the weather is cold and damp. But
we've also experienced the motivation to wash the car or get the
garden planted when the sun is shining and the sky is crystal clear
blue. We certainly recognize the weather can interfere with or enhance
our well being. Other familiar experiences include headaches caused
by hearing continuously loud noises or breathing dirty air, drowsiness
after eating a heavy pasta dinner, the jitters from too much caffeine,
sneezing from a too strong perfume, relaxation from listening to
soft classical music by candlelight, anxiety from crashing thunder
and lightening, and on and on. There is no question that we are
influenced by the environment. But we rarely stop to consider that
all of these things influence the way our brains function as well.
As we saw in the section on brain
function, the environment does indeed play a significant role
in the way the brain functions, and thus in learning as well.
As teachers, we need to be concerned about the environment in which
learning takes place.
first concern we as teachers need to have when considering the learning
environment is physical safety. We are fortunate that
our classrooms are generally physically safe. Obviously any classroom
should be clean, well lit, and well ventilated. It should be free
of any dangerous substances and be furnished with ergonomically correct
seating, with enough "space" for each occupant. However, a safe
physical environment concerns itself not only with the learning space,
but also with the physical condition of the learner. While it may seem
that there is little we can do to alter the physical environment in
which learning takes place, we have found that there is much a teacher
can do. We have found that a carefully planned physical environment
can help reduce stress and anxiety, which, as we have seen interfere
emotions, imagination, predisposition, and physiology operate concurrently
interactively as the entire system interacts and exchanges
information with its environment.
(Caine & Caine, 1997a, p. 104)
providing for a safe physical environment for learning, we can seek
to provide an enriched environment.
Francis Hunkins (1994), chair of Curriculum
and Instruction at the University of Washington, is involved with
designing learning environments. He discusses what an enriched learning
environment would involve:
appears to me that as we contemplate the design of future schools,
of future facilities that will encourage educational renewal and
restructuring, that we perhaps are too timid, unaware of the shackles
of our hidden assumptions and suppositions to what a school is and
what is defined as a learning space. ... As I dream what the future
school might look like as a space, it appears to me that we need
to do more than restructure schools; we need to reinvent schools.
We need to engage in outrageous thinking about learning environments.
...Our view of learning space, classroom if you wish, should reflect
a realization that the space is one of dynamic complexity. ... In
designing spaces that reculture schools, we want real cultures.
We want cultures that foster authentic
activities as opposed to hybrid
activities. ... I can see in the shadows of my dreams
spaces that allow for laboratories, studio spaces where educational
dramas might be conducted; spaces where students can gather for
"thinking" time; spaces that furnish students with arenas
for both solitary and social reflection. (¶ 4-13)
Hunkins is envisioning a revolutionary learning space, there are ways
we as teachers can begin to enrich our learning environments so that
they incorporate elements of dynamic complexity. In this section,
therefore, we will consider how to create a safe physical environment
and an enriched physical environment.
to the next section, Creating a SAFE PHYSICAL Environment