So far, we have covered how to motivate learners (BootCamp Day 1) and how to keep your learners interested (BootCamp Day 2). In this lesson, we talk about the environment and how important it is to foster learning.
With the word ‘environment’, we refer to both the physical environment (e.g. the room, space, light) and the psychological environment (e.g. do learners feel accepted, focused and able to contribute?)
So, how do you create the best learning environment for your participants? Let’s find out below.
1. Set Ground Rules with Your Participants
Before you even start the first day of your training session, you may want to set ground rules. This is to make sure that everybody knows what is acceptable and what is not, in order to minimise disruptive behaviour.
However, as adult learners are more motivated if they can have a say in the learning process (as we saw in lesson 1), you need to set the ground rules together with your participants.
Run an activity that allows participants to make a list of what should not be allowed during training. This will form the basis of your ‘learning contract’ with them.
2. Provide Refreshments within the Training Room
If you provide hot drinks, water and snacks within the training room during breaks, this will have two benefits.
- Firstly, if refreshments are easily available, participants will not wander off too far during breaks, thus they will be likely to get back on time. If all participants return on time from a coffee break, the whole group will stay more focused.
- Secondly, being together during breaks will give learners a chance to network and/or bond.
3. Regrouping the Class After an Activity
Group activities are necessary parts of a balanced training session. However, refocusing the learners at the end of it can be hard.
In order to avoid delays that can have a negative effect on the learning environment, you can:
- Set a timer. You can have a countdown timer on a big screen (as part of your PowerPoint presentation slides), with an alarm that goes off at the end of the set time for the activity.
- Use music to signal the end of the activity.
- Clap and/or ask the students who can hear you to clap, to start a sound wave.
- Use a pre-agreed hand signal.
4. Use Feedback to Foster a Supportive Learning Environment
We will talk in more detail about how to give and receive feedback from your learners in lesson five.
For now, it is worth pointing out that giving feedback in the right way to learners will encourage their confidence and trust in you. They will feel valued and part of a positive learning environment.
So, give positive reinforcement when appropriate and give constructive feedback (rather than simply criticising) to drive improvement. This means explaining clearly to learners what they did well and what they need to do to improve.
5. Choose the Most Appropriate Seating Arrangements
There are various layouts that you can choose for your training session in terms of seating if the venue allows it. For example:
- U-shape layout, to create a sense of unity among the class.
- Lecture theatre style, with a series of chairs in parallel rows facing the front. This is good for a large number of participants but it does not allow for much interaction between them.
- Clustered seats, whereby a number of chairs are located around individual tables around the room. This is very good to run small group activities.
6. Light and Temperature in the Training Room
Ideally, you should be able to adjust the level of light in the training room, to suit the activities you are doing. During a projection, for example, you may want to turn down the lights, while you will need good lighting if students are reading or writing.
Natural light is the best (although not always possible to have), but make sure that, if the window is exposed to direct sunlight, there are blinds or curtains you can draw.
In terms of temperature in the classroom, it is hard to make everyone happy but some studies suggest that the best temperature for learning ranges between 18 and 22 degree Celsius.
7. Noise and Other Distractions
If at all possible, it is better to hold training in a venue which is not too noisy (such as under a flight path or where you can hear traffic noise), as noise is detrimental to the learning process.
In some cases, learners might be distracted by activities that are taking place outside the training room window. In this case, you can try to move the seats so that learners face with their backs to the window. Alternatively, you may need to draw a curtain, if available.
8. Accessibility and Safety
If at all possible, choose a venue that allows access for people with disabilities. It not only makes it easier for participants but having a policy of making your training as inclusive as possible is morally a good thing to do.
In terms of safety, all emergency exits should be clearly signposted and not blocked in any way.
Ok, this is it for this lesson. In the next lesson, we will talk about how to make messages stick. How can you help your participants remember what you taught them? Bye for now, Valeria
Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds
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