Creating Optimal Conditions for Learning

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Studies in the area of brain compatible learning provide us with many insights into the ways in which children learn most effectively.  As educators and parents, we may use this information to ensure that we are creating situations in which our children succeed.  This applies to learning in school as well as at home, in a scout troop or on a sports team.

I’d like to share three ways in which we may create optimal conditions for our children’s learning.  These three areas are Learner Safety, Connection, and Expression.  Combined, they assist students of any age to become engaged in their learning and retain what they learn.  Let’s briefly explore each area.

Learner Safety means establishing an environment that is free of threat.  Threat can be physical, mental or emotional.  We’ve heard quite a lot about creating safe physical environments in schools.  It is equally important to create safe mental and emotional environments within classrooms.  Good teachers are instrumental in maintaining these enriching environments.  Classrooms where students work in teams, learn to listen to one another, feel personally valued each day and experience fun and joy in their learning are enriching places.

Connection occurs when students develop relationships with other students and adults.  Trust is built and strengthened when positive connections occur between people.  Students learn to connect with others through watching the adults in their lives role model this behavior.  They practice building trust and making connections when their learning environment is predictable, honest, and genuine.  Students who receive positive feedback from peers and teachers will feel connected to their learning group.

Expression refers to students being able to express who they are within the learning context without fear of being ridiculed or teased.  Students are given opportunities for self-expression in interactive classrooms.  Activities, games, rituals, fine arts, physical movement and writing are some of the ways in which students may express their uniqueness.  Classrooms where students actively participate and receive positive feedback, peer support, and acknowledgment are environments that enhance learning.

Teachers and parents alike are responsible for providing their students and children with the best learning environments possible.  Students learn and thrive in situations where they make connections with peers and adults and feel safe expressing their uniqueness.

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