To create an optimal environment for learning you must consider more than just the furniture.  Our brain is influenced by aromas in the room, music playing and even the number of plants that...

To create an optimal environment for learning you must consider more than just the furniture.  Our brain is influenced by aromas in the room, music playing and even the number of plants that populate the space.  Describe how a negative or positive environment in the classroom can influence a learning experience.  When creating the optimal environment for learning what is something that must be included?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one of the most important aspects in creating an optimal learning environment is in the validation of student voices.  It is essential that the learning environment is able to sustain the idea that students can feel acknowledged.  When the classroom environment is one where students feel that their experiences are a part of the learning experience, a greater sense of comfort is evident:

[The optimal learning environment is one where students feel]safe to make mistakes, share thoughts, and know that their ideas will not be attacked or ridiculed.  I have seen students cower under these conditions and it could not only affect them in their current classroom, but could very well stay with them long past the time in that environment. 

The optimal learning environment is one where students can experience a feeling that they are being taught.  Their needs are being addressed.  When students feel that their presence is being addressed first, even more than the demands of the curriculum, students feel that they are immersed in the optimal learning environment.  It is in this regard where a classroom can influence a learning experience.

Students who are immersed in an optimal learning environment recognize that a specific self- actualization takes place.  This self- actualization is one where they understand that their own needs are evident in the classroom setting. The optimal learning environment takes this experience into account.  It can be represented in a variety of ways.  One way is creating different areas of the classroom for the students.  A corner dedicated to reading and even relaxation, complete with bean bag chairs, could be a path where an optimal learning environment is evident. Additionally, students could be given areas of the classroom where they can design  a part of the classroom experience.  Walls dedicated to student work or even parts of the classroom for them to decorate and personalize allow them to have their voice validated in the classroom setting.  Opinions and expressions are authenticated and students recognize this, contributing to the optimal learning environment.  The most important element, though, is that the student recognizes that this environment is substantiated by the teacher. If students can see that the environment desired is an extension of the will of the teacher, it helps to substantiate how student voice is reinforced.  There is not much in way of fear and anxiety in such a setting.  The result is that students can understand that their learning and advancement in the realm of scholarship is directly connected to the support of their own emergent voice.

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