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The Importance of the Learning Environment
posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - May 11th, 2022
By Adam Cook
Over the past few decades, education research has consistently indicated the close relationship between the learning environment at home and the quality of student educational outcomes at school. As a classroom teacher, I have personally seen the rapidly changing landscape of education, but one thing that remains constant is the impact a child’s surroundings have on their ability to learn. With this in mind, how do concerned parents, tutors, and teachers take full advantage of years of academic research on learning and set their children up for success? I believe the proof is in the pudding; take a hard look at where your children do a majority of their learning and make an honest assessment of whether or not the state of that space is helping or hindering your child’s best efforts.
The Honest Assessment
What does an honest assessment of a child’s learning environment look like? Is there an inventory for the ideal learning environment? How do I know what the best practices are for setting up my child’s learning environment? Each of these questions are valid. While only you can accurately answer them because no one knows your child like you, here are 8 points for consideration.
Make reference sources easily accessible
Kids are curious and have lots of questions. A developmentally appropriate learning space that can provide them with all of the information they need is certainly ideal. But, what about the fact that attention spans often become shorter as the temptation to use a screen grows larger? Consider good, old-fashioned books. While they take up more space, the tactile and multi-step process your child engages in when thumbing through pages while searching for information is an important part of the development process.
Don’t ignore sensory stimuli
The ambience of a learning space is just as important as the contents. When putting together a space for your child to work, consider things like lighting, noise, and overall mood. Think of your favorite classroom or study space from your own childhood. Incorporate the things which made that space memorable and watch out for the things that could derail your child’s focus or sense of calm. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends natural light exposure combined with enough artificial light to easily see material and limited exposure to noises within the learning environment.
Functionality is vital
When it comes to the functionality of a learning space, anticipating obstacles is crucial. Depending on the type of learning that primarily occurs in your child’s space, think about the various tasks and activities that your child regularly engages in and make sure they have the supplies, tools, and space necessary to comfortably complete them. Factors such as appropriate writing space, thoughtful proximity of learning tools, and room to stretch are some quick and simple improvements to make.
Consistency is key
Much like any other area of the home, a learning space should have guidelines and rules. Make sure that your child knows what the space is used for and how to properly take care of it. By establishing a simple set of ground rules and procedures, you can ensure more long-term accountability as your child becomes a more independent learner.
When it comes to creating the guidelines for your child’s learning space, involve them in the process. Get their input and see what you can learn from them about how they learn. This can be invaluable information in helping your child grow and develop. With their feedback and interests in mind, establish clear expectations and responsibilities that your child will routinely follow associated with the learning space. This could be as simple as a two-minute cleanup before dinner to the tune of their favorite Disney soundtrack or could incorporate a more structured plan for time management. Either way, give your child the opportunity to practice responsibility and discipline within this space.
Organization fosters creativity and progress
The old adage that a messy desk is the mark of a genius may have some truth to it. But, when it comes to young, developing minds, clutter can become the enemy of creativity. As you’re thinking about promoting independence with your children in their learning space, I encourage you to help them recognize the importance of organization and cleanliness when it comes to learning. With a little time and effort now, you and your child can set up future learning sessions for success. When designing the learning space, make organization clear, simple, and easy for your child. Designated areas for materials, labels, and easily accessible storage are all important components of making the learning space more effective.
Make a space of celebration
One of the most important parts of the learning process is celebrating growth. The learning environment should contain a sacred space for displaying your child’s work. Together, you and your child can define the criteria for success within the space and decide what becomes “celebration-worthy,” but the important thing is that your child can establish a sense of pride in the space.
Don’t forget SEL (Social-Emotional Learning)
While progress is important, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your child’s mental
wellbeing. When putting the finishing touches on your child’s learning space, consider whether or not the area will be a source of relaxation and refuge for them. A good learning environment offers the ability to decompress and reflect which will allow your child to continue to grow and develop in maturity and accountability. Ask yourself, does the space provide my child with a safe, distraction-free environment that is welcoming?
Consider a Creative DIY Approach
Did I mention that designing your child’s learning environment can be fun, too? Our friends at Porch put together some helpful advice for designing the ultimate playroom for your child. Especially at young ages, play and learning go hand-in-hand. Many of the design characteristics that are mentioned can and should be carried over into your child’s learning space. You may even find that it makes the most sense for you and your child to combine the two spaces into a multi-function area. Whatever approach you choose, it is important to establish a plan that is purposeful. Only you and your child can determine what will work best for the learning space, but the design should be intentional and meaningful in order to promote the most learning and growth. If you are considering making, remodeling, or totally revamping your child’s learning environment, I encourage you to spend time involving your child in the process. I think you will be surprised at how rewarding it can be to design something together and then turn your plans into real, lasting success.
If you’ve set up your child’s learning space and are looking for something to kickstart their learning, we have just the thing to help! Click here to access Testing Mom’s live online group classes. We have fun and engaging learning experiences planned for a variety of subjects at any grade level. We can’t wait to see you there!
*Eitland, Erika, et al. Harvard University, pp. 1–47, FOUNDATIONS FOR STUDENT SUCCESS HOW SCHOOL BUILDINGS INFLUENCE STUDENT HEALTH, THINKING AND PERFORMANCE.
*Siqueira, Teresa. “Expert Advice to Design the Ultimate Kids Playroom at Home.” Porch, 15 Apr. 2022, https://porch.com/advice/expert-advice-design-playroom. Accessed 11 May 2022.
Yours in Learning,
TestingMom.com Director of Curriculum Design
Adam Cook, M.Ed. is a certified teacher and principal with more than 10 years of experience as a classroom teacher, coach, curriculum designer, and academic coordinator. He is the Director of Curriculum Design for TestingMom.com. Adam and his wife live in McKinney, Texas where he also works as a high school English teacher and is a doctoral candidate in Education Administration at Texas A&M University-Commerce.