There has been a lot of work done on how our environments affect our behaviour and decisions.
I was reminded about it this week thanks to Seth Godin’s post looking at choosing the location for your business or activities wisely and on John Saddinger’s post about creating an environment for candour. These posts reminded me about the impact that a classroom environment can have.
When people are in a classroom, they act like they expect to in a classroom. There maybe some slight regional, cultural or personality differences (the good student vs the class clown) but they keep to their expectation.
On the one had this is a wonderful thing. We are here to learn. This is a place of learning. Students come and take on the role of a learner.
However, it can also prove problematic.
What about students/cultures who have different behavioural expectation from which we want to cultivate in our classrooms? Students who are taught never to speak or give their opinion in class but studiously read and repeat chorally after the teacher.
What if their previous experience has all been negative and their student identity and role is of one who struggles?
Some activities are worse than others
If we want to do a roleplay or talk about a certain topic then the overriding narrative of being in a classroom will compete with whatever idea or environment we try to produce. Using accurate prompts, materials we can find outside the classroom etc can help a poor illusion of the desired environment and dynamic.
[It’s one of the reasons that during our Russian lessons we are often made to go into shops/restaurants etc to use the language we were learning. It made it real and not just for the classroom. ]
Off site business environments can suffer and be helped by this clash of environments. On the one hand if we are in a place of business then it creates a sense of that environment. However, then we can have the lack of a learning environment and even have the same senior/junior dynamics that are in place of the business.
Have you ever had a class in a coffee shop or outside? Unfortunately, I have ever been allowed to take my students off site but I am sure it would be as different as when I’ve gone for drinks with my students. Different language comes up, different needs are present.
Is it really that important?
Despite all this my students do seem to be able to relax, get into their characters in roleplays, open up, overcome previous poor learning experiences so I wonder. How important is it? How much of an effect does it have?
At the top of the page you can see a pic of my classroom and it certainly looks different to a standard Ukrainian classroom and maybe that helps. Personally, I’d like to have more colours in the room and pictures round the class. This is especially due to the fact that I teach Kids, teens and Adults there.