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Creating a Learning Environment

Creating and implementing a learning environment means careful planning for the start of the school year. The learning environment must be envisioned in both a physical space and a cognitive space. The physical space of the classroom is managed as the teacher prepares the classroom for the students. Is the space warm and inviting? Does the room arrangement match the teacher’s philosophy of learning? Do the students have access to necessary materials? Are the distracting features of a room eliminated? Attending to these and similar questions aids a teacher in managing the physical space of the classroom.

Teachers must also consider the cognitive space necessary for a learning environment. This cognitive space is based upon the expectations teachers set for students in the classroom and the process of creating a motivational climate. Effective teachers create and implement classroom management practices that cultivate an engaging classroom environment for their students. Two specific areas of cognitive space that teachers include in their plans are setting expectations (ie., rules and procedures) and creating a motivational climate.

Setting Expectations

In both elementary and secondary classrooms, the start of the school year is crucial to effective management. A significant aspect of this beginning is the teacher’s establishment of expectations for student behavior, which are expressed through rules and procedures. Rules indicate the expectations for behavior in the classroom, and for how one interacts with one’s peers and the teacher. Procedures have to do with how things get done. Rules an be, and frequently are, developed with the students’ help, which increases the likelihood of compliance.
Motivational Climate

An essential part of organizing the classroom involves developing a climate in which teachers encourage students to do their best and to be excited about what they are learning. There are two factors that are critical in creating such a motivational climate: value and effort. To be motivated, students must see the worth of the work that they are doing and the work others do. A teacher’s demonstration of value shows students how their work is worthwhile and is connected to things that are important for them, including other learning and interests. Effort ties the time, energy, and creativity a student uses to develop the “work,” to the value that the work holds. One way t that teachers encourage effort is through specific praise, telling students specifically what it is that they are doing that is worthwhile and good. In combination an understanding of the value of academic tasks and the effort necessary to complete these tasks motivate students to learn.

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