articles, opinions, and research about teaching and learning

Values, attitudes, and behaviours: The essential environment

The most important element in the learning environment is invisible. It is made up of the values, attitudes, and actions that we and our classes take part in every day.

As the teacher, you can exemplify the values that lead to intellectual curiosity and learning, and you can foster those values in the children in your class.

The ways that you interact with children can establish the classroom as a place that nurtures investigation and experiment, hard work, and appreciation for the unique abilities of each learner.

The ways that you set up for children to interact also contribute to the daily creation of the learning environment.

Are children put into competitive situations? Or is co-operation the most valued activity? Are children asked to support each other's learning, or are they asked to learn in isolation? As the teacher, you create structures - in the form of learning activities - that channel and shape communication between children.

Key considerations

There are many factors to be considered in the making your classroom into a positive and supportive learning environment.

Treat all learners equally.
When you are fair in your treatment of children in your class, they understand that you care about the success of each of them. Call on girls as often as you call on boys, and support their answers with rewards and guidance.

Go out of your way to pay equal attention to learners from minority ethnic groups or who are new to your school.

Create opportunities for every student to experience successful learning.

Encourage participation.
Believe that every student in your class can learn.

Make it clear that your expectations are high - that learners will focus on learning activities, that they will share information, and that they will ask for help when they need it.

And make it equally clear that you see that when learners behave in ways that promote learning, you will respond with support and encouragement, even when they encounter challenges and obstacles.

Establish structures for learning.
Children (like the rest of us) learn best when the learning is dynamic and active, but when it takes place in a context of order and stability.

Create a chart of class jobs and responsibilities, to enlist children in keeping their classroom clean and organised. Post and discuss rules for co-operation and working in small groups. Establish a system that children can practice and rely on.

Describe and demonstrate the behaviours that you expect from your class.

Organise the presentation of lessons and activities.
When you are confident and competent in your presentations to the class, you lay the foundation for effective learning. Prepare materials and review lessons in advance to master the information and skills at the core of the activity.

Guide discussion toward clear goals of understanding. And make the goals of lessons and activities clear to learners at each step in the learning process.

Avoid negative communication.
When you yell at a child, you destroy the environment that nurtures learning.

When you are sarcastic, or belittle a learner's efforts, you discourage that learner from responding again.

When you scold children harshly, or humiliate them - whenever you expose them in front of others - you endanger the trust that they place in you.

For more information, visit Gender and learning and Co-operative learning.

Journal activity: The environment of behaviour

Review and assess your style of interacting with students.

Begin by reviewing last week's events in your classroom. Focus on one or two of the challenging situations that you faced - when a child misbehaved, or when it became clear that the class did not grasp a topic.

How did you resolve the situation? What was the result?

What was the effect your actions had, in your opinion, on the environment of values in your classroom?

What different choices might you have made?

You can find tools for assessing your teaching practices and the habits of the children in your class at Interpersonal skills for learning.

Teacher Talking Explore Ideas · Discuss Issues · Take Action
Last revised April, 1999
Copyright © UNICEF