PGCE stuff – if you need an essay written….

… well I wont do it for you but here’s one of mine.

Teaching and Learning Assignment

Discuss how and why the learning environment is important when developing children’s learning.

An effective learning environment ‘needs to be conducive to learning, allowing the pupils space and time to interact within the learning process. Creating and maintaining stimulating learning environments can be achieved through effective classroom organisation, interactive and whole school displays and a climate of innovation’ (Highlands schools: 2010).  The learning environment does not have to just be in the classroom, it can expand to the whole school from the school grounds to schools entrance foyer and to the wider environment out of school for example in museums and parks. The learning environment also consists of a number of different factors which help develop the children’s learning.  For example there are the physical aspects such as classroom organisation of displays, resources, extra adults and the organisation of the children in the classroom. There are social aspects which include managing behaviour, use of praise and positive reinforcement, valuing diversity, classroom ethos and PSHE. The learning environment is not just in the classroom; learning can take place out of the classroom too. Some attributes of a positive learning environment is that it has high challenge and low stress in the classroom; teachers can facilitate this by separating the class into ability groups. It has ritualised and positive teacher behaviour, the teacher should be confident and the children are engaged at all times. The behaviour of the teacher reflects the behaviour of the children; this will help with classroom management. It has constant and varied exposure to new material, differentiated plans for individuals for example using visual, auditory and kinaesthetic teaching strategies. A well organised learning environment enhances learning. It is important that all lessons are well planned and the teacher knows what the pupils need to get out of the lesson.  This will be seen in the learning objectives.

The physical attributes of the classroom are important, ‘Good lighting, heating, ventilation, acoustics, access for disabled pupils, and a sense of well-being will enhance levels of pupils’ concentration. Good decorative order, the appropriate use of colour and visual display are also key prerequisites for accessibility and an effective learning environment’ (DCSF, 2006). Children need space around the classroom, for example a place to put their coat and bag. On my placement each child had a peg to put their coat on and in their group they shared a box to put their book bag in. Space is not all about personal space, another example is that the teacher should set seating arrangements so that right hand children and left hand children are sitting the right sides of each other.  The children will be distracted and will not be able to totally focus on their work if another child is nudging them. It is also important that the five levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for humans are met. The lowest level is physiological and safety/security, as one rises up the levels, the needs become more complex. If the children’s basic needs are not met, the children are going to find it difficult to learn. This will affect their progress within the classroom. The classroom is a space for learning, so there needs to be flexibility when being able to move furniture. For example if the class had circle time or needs to use the space for physical activity, the furniture should be moved to allow the activity to go ahead comfortably in the space provided. It is important that the classroom is clean and the decor of the classroom is not over stimulating to the children, this would have an adverse effect for the children’s learning.

Another physical aspect is the ‘access of resources in the classroom to support learning. These can include visual resources […] on display’ (National Strategies, DCSF, 2006), for example the teacher can set up a working wall. This is where over the weeks the teacher adds work to it and this can show progress throughout the topic. Key concepts and teaching points are displayed and updated as necessary.  The children can ask questions about the topic and could post them in a box, this makes the wall interactive. The teacher refers to the working wall throughout the teaching period.  The displays aid learning and can reflect the class as a community. Another useful resource is the outdoor classroom, for example teachers can use the school grounds and local area as resources. The teacher can take the pupils out on school trips using the resources around them; this would probably be cheaper, so the money saved could be used on other resources needed. The school could also make links with the local community. The organisation of Information Communication and Technological (ICT) resources needs thought where a wide range of options are available. The school should have a ‘dedicated ICT area and a ‘anywhere’ support network (National Strategies, DCSF, 2006). It would be useful to have an ICT specialist or technician to help with the last minute issues and general organisation of the department. It is also useful to have up to date ICT equipment and sufficient numbers of the equipment for example laptops, for the children in class. However, this could be difficult due to funding issues since technology in this day and age is forever changing and getting more advanced. Children are also resources as they can be encouraged to aid each other during activities. Vygotsky suggested that pupils learn by social interaction; however the pupil needs a more knowledgeable person to help and guide the pupil. The process of talking and explaining ideas helps learning. In the classroom this could also be another pupil it does not have to be the class teacher. On my placement if a pupil was stuck the teacher would ask another pupil in the class to explain what that pupil found hard this is an example of social constructivism.  Resources need to be appropriate and adequate to the child’s learning. For example on my placement there was a lack of left-handed scissors this meant that the children were limited in the activities they could have undertaken. This hindered the children’s progress in the classroom.

A social aspect of the learning environment is managing behaviour in the classroom. The teacher needs to establish the ground rules within the class. It may be helpful with older children to ask them to make their own class rules where all pupils contribute. The children will feel involved in the classroom rules and would probably be more likely to follow them. The children will understand why the rules are in place to support the learning environment. The use of praise and positive reinforcement is the classroom is important because. Physical, social, health and emotional (PHSE) education is an social aspect of the learning environment. Circle time is often used to incorporate PHSE into the classroom and some teacher will make a box for children to put their worries or questions in. This is helpful if the child does not feel comfortable talking face to face to an adult. Worry bags are sometimes used in the classroom when children find it hard to explain what is wrong. The teacher can spot if the child has the worry bag and knows to talk to the child.

On my placement the school environment supported behaviour management by using class and school rules and rewards and sanctions. The school has 6 golden rules which are: We listen, we don’t interrupt; We look after property, we don’t damage things; We are gentle, we don’t hurt others; We are honest, we don’t cover up the truth; We are kind and helpful, we don’t hurt anybody’s feelings; We work hard, we don’t waste time. I was in a reception class and while I was there in a golden rule was introduced in circle time. Big books were used to put the golden rule across to the children, with the same characters trending in all the stories. Afterwards the books were displayed in the classroom. If the rule for that week was ‘we listen, we don’t interrupt’ and a child did interrupt the teacher; the teacher would reinforce the rule, and tell the children to remember ‘we listen, we don’t interrupt’.

The class I was in used a reward system which was introduced by a Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) Student. The reward system consisted of a tick chart where the children would work towards getting five ticks in a week and if the children achieved this, they would get a certificate. The criteria for being able to gain a tick is  ‘smart sitting’ this phrase was used throughout school where the children would be quiet while sitting on the carpet listening to the teacher; trying your hardest, tidying up, sharing and helping others. I found that some pupils responded well to the reward system and they were motivated to do well, where as other pupils would ask if they would get a tick before they did the task you asked them to do. One of the pupils in the class was very interested in dinosaurs and saw that one of the certificates had them on; this motivated him to gain ticks to be awarded the certificate.  I think the reward system works depending on how well the children respond to it. Day to day reward stickers were used as rewards when children were focused and performed well when working one to one with the teacher and at lunchtime the lunchtime assistants would give out stickers for good manners and being able to finish all of their lunch.

Noise levels around the school were controlled by voice codes, in reception these were denoted by animals and through the older year’s voice codes were denoted by colour. Signs for the voice codes were displayed throughout the school; this allows the children and teachers in the school to refer to it. The teacher occasionally had to stop class & remind them of their voice use. Children were given verbal & visual reminder about appropriate volume for situation. In reception there were two main voice animals, a lion and a mouse. The lion was to represent the children’s playground voice and the mouse was to represent the children’s classroom voice. Children need time to interact with fellow pupils to discuss their knowledge and understanding. It is important that the teacher allows for this and not constantly talking at the children.

Learning outside the classroom is about exploration and discovery, collaboration and cooperation, participation, interaction and first hand investigation. The aims and values of out of classroom learn are that it provides experimental and active learning in the environment and motivates children through stimulating and enjoyable experiences. This can extend the children’s enquiry skills through ‘real world’ investigations. The children can develop their observational, recording and analytical skills and their knowledge and understanding in ‘real world’ context. Learning outside the classroom can encourage and enable children gain social skills for example working cooperatively in teams and develop relationships. These skills can be use in later life and in the work place. Another aim is that it fosters a  ‘feel’ for the environment, through examining values and attitudes; and builds children’s self esteem and self confidence through first hand engagement and involvement in learning (Arthur & Cremin: 2010).

Learning outside the classroom should be a regular slot during the week. The teacher can use the school grounds to enhance learning. For example in maths the teacher could put sums up around the playground and the children can go round to each station to find the answers. This way all children are involved in answering the questions and could ask their peers for help and support. Making the most of the local facilities, for example parks and museums and using parents, grandparent and outside people can also be classed as learning outside the classroom. The children can learn from their elders and if their relative talks to the class the child could gain a sense of achievement.  The Early Years Foundation Stages suggests that eighty percent of learning should take place outside of the classroom. The ‘outdoor classroom is as important as the indoor environment when it comes to teaching and learning especially with younger children’ (Bilton: 2002, cited in J. Moyles, 2007:175).

On my placement the use of adults and school trips were used. In year two the pupils were studying Italy and the Romans, the pupils went on a trip to pizza express where they go to make pizza. Year one was studying about Peru, one of the parents of the class had recently been there so talked about the area and what they discovered there. Also Reception had a parent in to talk about the Chinese New Year. The children were more engaged in the talks given by the parents because they are something new and interesting to the pupils. Throughout the school there are parent volunteers that help with tasks around the classroom. The school encourages volunteers to help, even if it is just for an afternoon and the parents can also see what the learning environment is like.

During this course and throughout my placement I have learnt that the learning environment is important within the education system. There are many factors that contribute to the learning environment from the physical aspect of the organisation of resources to the social aspect of managing behaviour. I feel I am now more equipped to provide an effective learning environment that would benefit the children in helping with their gaining of knowledge. For example making use of the outside area and out of the classroom learning to keep the children engaged.  I will be able to use this in my future practice and I can see how this will improve my teaching by enabling me to make the curricular areas more accessible to children.

Word Count: 2285

Bibliography

  • Arthur, J., and Cremin,T eds. (2010) Learning to Teach in the Primary School, Oxon: Routledge
  • DCFS (2006) Primary National Strategy, London: DfES Publications
  • Highland Council education (2010) The Learning Environment, Available at: (http://www.highlandschools-virtualib.org.uk/ltt/inclusive_enjoyable/environment.htm), (date accessed: 24.5.12)
  • Moyles J. (ed.) (2007) Beginning Teaching: Beginning Learning, Buckingham: Open University Press.

And yes, before you say anything, I am stalling for time.

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