Understand ways to maintain a safe and supportive learning environment. 2.1It is important to foster a learning environment in which students feel safe, relaxed, secure, confident and valued (Gravells A 2012 pg25) especially for learners who may have had negative experiences in traditional classroom environments. Students often describe supportive learning environments as expanding their sense of family and enhancing their self-esteem, which, when combined with increased literacy skills, help students take more chances in pursuing their goals.
This involves not only the venue, but your attitude and the support you give to your students (Gravells A 2012, pge 24). You must consider your student’s health and safety needs and work within the boundaries of your organisation’s policies. Should there be any concerns about health and safety you must inform your organisation’s designated personnel. At no time should your learner’s health and safety be compromised. To establish purposeful learning in you given environment you must arrange the physical space to be conducive to discussion, and you as the facilitator should be easily seen by your learners. Toilet facilities should be clearly accessible and any disable needs met. When food and drink are provided, it should be suitable for everyone i.e. vegetarians, halal or kosher as examples.
If you have a break time it is good practice to let you learners know when this takes place as this can help them focus on their learning. It is your responsibility to be prepared making sure your environment is clean and at the right temperature. If it is too hot, be considerate open doors or windows do try to solve or manage the problem. Also the quality of your lesson tells your learners that you are professional, motivated and serious about your job. This safety first approach is reflective of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs which states that if one’s basic needs are met, and one feels comfortable then one can feel a sense of belonging, which positively effects self-esteem, this in turn leads to respect from others.
Here are some ways to create a supportive learning environment for students:
Build a strong classroom community
The adult education classroom can play an important role in helping students build stronger and larger networks. Classrooms provide students and staff
with friendship, skills, and contacts beyond their immediate communities. Intentionally building networks in the classroom can create meaningful, supportive relationships among students and teachers.
Use pair work, as well as small-group and whole-class activities, beginning the first day of class to help students get acquainted, and provide on-going opportunities for students to form connections with students they don’t interact with as frequently in the classroom. Provide students with opportunities to share about their backgrounds and cultures. Seek to connect students with the greater community, through field trips, current events discussions, bringing guest speakers, etc.
Build self-esteem and self-efficacy
Students’ determination and belief that they can achieve their goals are important factors in their persistence in on-going learning. Adult learners may have negative feelings about themselves due to failure experienced in their lives, due to dropping out of school, losing a job, or not being able to read or write well enough to complete a job application or read to their children.
Ensure that students experience success at their first meeting so the first experience is a positive one. It may be appropriate to start with material that is slightly below the student’s level. Be patient! Patience is an extremely important characteristic for any teacher or tutor of adults. Adults can often take a longer time in the learning process because of various learning barriers, but this does not mean they aren’t motivated to learn. Accept your student as he/she is and respect his/her values even if they differ from yours.
Believe in your student and he/she will begin to believe in him/herself. Memorize the names of all your students within the first week of instruction. Use students’ names frequently. If your students are English learners, learn a few key phrases in their native languages to model that it is acceptable to struggle with pronunciation and language learning. Use positive nonverbal communication
Nonverbal messages are an essential component of communication in the teaching process. It is not only what you say to your student that is important but also how you say it. An awareness of nonverbal behaviour will allow you to become a better receiver of students’ messages and a better sender of signals that reinforce learning.
Some areas of nonverbal behaviours to explore include: Eye contact: Teachers who make eye contact open the flow of communication and convey interest, concern, warmth and credibility. Facial expressions: Smiling is a great way to communicate friendliness and warmth to students. Gestures: A lively and animated teaching style captures students’ attention, makes the material more interesting, and facilitates learning.
Head nods also communicate positive reinforcement to students and indicate that you are listening. Posture and body orientation: Standing erect, but not rigid, and leaning slightly forward communicates to students that you are approachable, receptive and friendly. Speaking with your back turned or looking at the floor or ceiling should be avoided, as it communicates disinterest.
Proximity: Cultural norms dictate a comfortable distance for interaction with students. Look for signals of discomfort caused by invading students’ space, which include rocking, leg swinging, crossed arms, tapping and gaze aversion. Paralinguistic: Tone, pitch, rhythm, timbre, loudness and inflection in the way you speak should be varied for maximum effectiveness. Students report that they learn less and lose interest more quickly when listening to teachers who have not learned to modulate their voices. Humour: Develop the ability to laugh at yourself and encourage students to do the same. Humour is often overlooked as a teaching tool. It can release stress and tension for both instructor and student and foster a friendly classroom environment that facilitates learning.
Motivation is a key factor in student success, and whatever level of motivation your student brings to the learning environment will be transformed, for better or worse, by what happens in the learning process. Involve students as active participants in learning. Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, and solving. Pose questions. Don’t tell students something when you can ask them. Be enthusiastic about what you are teaching. An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. If you become bored or apathetic, students will too.
Work from students’ strengths and interests.
When possible, let students have some say in choosing what will be studied. Let students decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics to explore in greater depth. Vary your teaching methods. Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and their motivation. Incorporate role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audio-visual presentations, guest speakers or small group work. Relate new tasks to those students already know.
Ice breaker games are brilliant for getting people to talk and befriend each other quickly. They bring people together that otherwise may not have the opportunity to talk. Having a bit of fun together breaks down barriers quickly and helps people loosen up. Ice breakers speed up the getting to know you process and make it easier to take a group forward. They are a trainer’s ideal tool but can be used in many more meeting situations than people do! Ice Breakers:
Create a positive group atmosphere
Help people to relax
Break down social barriers
Energise and motivate
Help people to think outside the box
Help people to know one another
Attached is a booklet provided by the University of Manchester covering a wide variety of Icebreaker games and there are hundreds of available online covering a wide variety of subjects. It is important that the trainer fully understands the Ice breaker that he is going to use and builds in the resources and time constraints to complete the task.
2.2It is important to promote appropriate behaviour and respect for others so as to identify the objectives for the course and uses this first meeting to lay down a set of ground rules. Ground rules set the boundaries within which the students must work and enable everyone to have an equal
opportunity to carry out their study whilst in the class room. One way is to have a group discussion ensuring that rules are mutually agreed, doable with input from all individuals regardless of ethnicity, class or social background. Examples of ground rules decided and agreed by the learners and trainers: Respect for others
Learn and listen
Mobile phones off
No abusive language
No religious discussions
Be open to new ideas
Participate fully- take risks
When reviewing the ground rules you have to have a fair and balanced view to all points identified. Your objective is to do much more than lay down a few rules. In negotiating with the students you give them a sense of worth, this helps you gain their trust. You will have to shape these rules to ensure that they respond to the policies of the organisation you represent. It is also important that learners have to be warned, as to what action will be taken if the rules are broken and as a last resort individuals may be excluded from the group.
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