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Tompkins Cortland Community College

Model A Model for the Creation of
Meaningful Community College Learning Experiences

Creating a Learning-Centered PHYSICAL Environment

A visual of the environment section of the model.  Heart with plant icon (learning centered environment) followed by a head with gears icon (brain function, followed by a plant icon (physical), a heart icon (emotional) and an icon with two people(social.  There is a red square around the  physical icon to focus attention on it.

Clip art of sun and rain clouds.We 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.

Clipart of hazardous materials with a "no" sign over them.The 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 with learning. 

Thoughts, emotions, imagination, predisposition, and physiology operate concurrently and interactively as the entire system interacts and exchanges information with its environment.   (Caine & Caine, 1997a, p. 104)

Beyond providing for a safe physical environment for learning, we can seek to provide an enriched environment. Francis Hunkins (1994), chair of Clipart of teacher using visuals with a class.Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Washington, is involved with designing learning environments. He discusses what an enriched learning environment would involve:

It 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)

While 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.

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Icon for a safe physical environment.Go to the next section, Creating a SAFE PHYSICAL Environment

 

Learning-Centered Environment links:

Creating a Learning-Centered Environment--Introduction

Brain Function
Plant.
Creating A Learning-Centered PHYSICAL Environment

Safe and Enriched

Heart.
Creating A Learning-Centered EMOTIONAL Environment

Safe and Enriched

A couple.
Creating A Learning-Centered SOCIAL Environment

Safe and Enriched

 
The Model Introduction

Dialogue on Learning Homepage