I’ve recently read a little bit about transformative learning. While it remains incredibly difficult for me to make a connection between the theory and my current practice (i.e. developing curriculum with transformative learning as a goal and assessing whether transformative learning has occurred) the one thing I can totally get behind is creating a classroom space that helps foster transformative learning opportunities.
I started some research into how to create a positive learning environment and came across an excellent paper called, Maximizing Student Learning Through the Creation of a Positive Classroom Environment. I particularly liked the fact that the research was conducted on adults in a post-secondary institution. While the article is quite lengthy, it really helped address all of the questions I had about the topic.
What I found most interesting about the paper was the results of a survey completed by adult learners about the factors that they believed created a positive learning environment. As it turned out, the factors that made up the majority of the total points of the survey were “human-centered” (HC) – things like accessibility to the instructor, entertaining environment, and great classmates. “Academic-centered” (AC) factors only accounted for 35% of the total survey points and included things like great textbooks, computers in the classroom, and great field trips. This was quite surprising to me because my perception was that it would have been the other way around.
In any event, the top 6 factors that the adult learners believed accounted for a positive learning environment (and the points they scored) were as follows:
- Great Instructor (HC) 115
- Clear Academic Goals (AC) 103
- Challenging Class/Program (AC) 88
- Open Communication Throughout the Class (HC) 79
- Fair Testing and Grading (HC) 61
- Open Discussion (HC) 60
This shed some really interesting light on positive learning environments, because as it turns out, it’s not so much about what you hang on the walls or how you incorporate technology (though these things can certainly help), what it really comes down to is the human interaction.