Learning environment

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Learning environments are educational approaches, cultures, and physical settings for all types of learners and activities

The learning environment can refer to an educational approach, cultural context, or physical setting in which teaching and learning occur. The term is commonly used as a more definitive alternative to "classroom",[1] but it typically refers to the context of educational philosophy or knowledge experienced by the student and may also encompass a variety of learning cultures—its presiding ethos and characteristics, how individuals interact, governing structures, and philosophy. In a societal sense, learning environment may refer to the culture of the population it serves and of their location. Learning environments are highly diverse in use, learning styles, organization, and educational institution. The culture and context of a place or organization includes such factors as a way of thinking, behaving, or working, also known as organizational culture.[2] For a learning environment such as an educational institution, it also includes such factors as operational characteristics of the instructors, instructional group, or institution; the philosophy or knowledge experienced by the student and may also encompass a variety of learning cultures—its presiding ethos and characteristics, how individuals interact, governing structures, and philosophy. In soearning styles and pedagogies used; and the societal culture of where the learning is occurring.


The Japanese word for school, gakuen(がくえん、学園), means "learning garden" or "garden of learning".[3] The word school derives from Greek σχολή (scholē), originally meaning "leisure" and also "that in which leisure is employed", but later "a group to whom lectures were given, school".[4][5][6][7] Kindergarten is a German whose literal meaning is "garden for the children", however the term was coined in the metaphorical sense of "place where children can grow in a natural way".

Direct instruction is perhaps civilization's oldest method of formal, structured education and continues to be a dominant form throughout the world. In its essence it involves the transfer of information from one who is possesses more knowledge to one who has less knowledge, either in general or in relation to a particular subject or idea. The Socratic method was developed over two millennia ago in response to direct instruction in the scholae of Ancient Greece. Its dialectic, questioning form continues to be an important form of learning in western schools of law. Hands-on learning, a form of active and experiential learning, predates language and the ability to convey knowledge by means other than demonstration, has been shown to be one of the more effective means of learning and over the past two decades has been given an increasingly important role in education.

Operational characteristics[edit]

The operation of the educational facility can have a determining role of the nature of the learning environment. Characteristics that can determine the nature of the learning environment include:

Societal culture[edit]

"Culture" is generally defined as the beliefs, customs, arts, traditions, and values of a society, group, place, or time.[8] This may include a school, community, a nation, or a state. Culture affects the behavior of educators, students, staff, and community. It often determines curriculum content. A community's socioeconomic status directly influences its ability to support a learning institution; its ability to attract high caliber educators with appealing salaries; a safe, secure, and comfortable secure facility; and provide even basic needs for students, such as adequate nutrition, health care, adequate rest, and support at home for homework and obtaining adequate rest,

Pedagogy and learning style[edit]

Several of the key trends in educational models throughout the 20th and early 21st century include progressive education, constructivist education, and 21st century skills-based education. These can be provided in comprehensive or specialized schools in a variety of organizational models, including departmental, integrative, project-based, academy, small learning communities, and school-within-a-school. Each of these can also be paired, at least in part, with design-based, virtual school, flipped classroom, and blended learning models.

Passive learning[edit]

Passive learning, a key feature of direct instruction, has at its core the dissemination of nearly all information and knowledge from a single source, the teacher with a textbook providing lessons in lecture-style format. This model has also become known as the "sage on the stage". A high degree of learning was by rote memorization. When public education began to proliferate in Europe and North America from the early 19th century, a direct-instruction model became the standard and has continued into the 21st century. Education at the time was designed to provide workers for the emerging factory-based, industrial societies, and this educational model and organization of schools became known as the "factory model school", with curriculum, teaching style, and assessment heavily standardized and centered around the needs and efficiencies of classroom and teacher management.

Active learning[edit]

Active learning is a model of instruction that focuses the responsibility of learning on learners, not on teacher-led instruction, a model also termed student-centered. It is based on the premise that in order to learn, students must do more than just listen: they must read, write, discuss, or be engaged in solving problems. It relates to three learning domains referred to as knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA) (Bloom, 1956), whereby students must engage in such higher-order thinking tasks as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.[9] Active learning engages students in two aspects – doing things and thinking about the things they are doing (Bonwell and Eison, 1991). (See Bloom's taxonomy).

Differentiated learning[edit]

Differentiated learning has developed from an awareness of the effectiveness of different learning styles which have emerged from late 20th/early 21st century neurological research and studies of the different learning styles. As the impacts of the factory model school's design on learning became more apparent, together with the emerging need for different skills in the late 20th century, so too did the need for different educational styles and different configurations of the physical learning environments. Direct instruction is now expanding to include students conducting independent or guided research with multiple sources of information, greater in-class discussion, group collaboration, experiential (hands-on, project-based, etc.), and other forms of active learning. Direct instruction's "sage on the stage" role for teachers approach is being augmented or replaced by a "guide by the side" approach. In instruction based on differentiation, the classroom teacher alters the delivery and content of instruction for students based on each student's learning profile, readiness level, and interests [10]

Progressive education[edit]

Progressive education is a pedagogical movement using many tenets of active learning that began in the late 19th century and has continued in various forms to the present. The term progressive was engaged to distinguish this education from the traditional Euro-American curricula of the 19th century, which was rooted in classical preparation for the university and strongly differentiated by social class. Progressive education is rooted in present experience. Many progressive education programs include qualities such as learning by doing (hands-on projects, experiential learning, integrated curriculum, integration of entrepreneurship, problem solving, critical thinking, group work, social skills development, goals of understanding and action instead of rote knowledge, collaborative and cooperative learning projects, education for social responsibility and democracy, personalized education, integration of community service, subject content selection based on what future skills will be needed, de-emphasis on textbooks, lifelong learning, and assessment by evaluation of students' projects and productions.

Constructivist education[edit]

Constructivist education is a movement includes active learning, discovery learning, and knowledge building, and all versions promote a student's free exploration within a given framework or structure. The teacher acts as a facilitator who encourages students to discover principles for themselves and to construct knowledge by working answering open-ended questions and solving real-world problems. Montessori education is an example of a constructivist learning approach.

21st century learning[edit]

A 21st century learning environment is a learning program, strategy, and specific content. All are learner-centered and supported by or include the use of modern digital technologies. Many incorporate key components of active learning.

Blended learning is a learning program in which a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with greater student control over time, place, path, or pace than with traditional learning.

Personalized learning is an educational strategy that offers pedagogy, curriculum, and learning environments to meet the individual student's needs, learning preferences, and specific interests. It also encompasses differentiated instruction that supports student progress based on mastery of specific subjects or skills.[11]

21st century skills are a series of higher-order skills, abilities, and learning dispositions that have been identified as being required content and outcomes for success in 21st century society and workplaces by educators, business leaders, academics, and governmental agencies. These skills include core subjects (The three Rs), 21st century content, collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, information and communication technologies (ICT) literacy, life skills, and 21st century assessments.

Digital literacy is becoming critical to successful learning, for mobile and personal technology is transforming learning environments and workplaces alike. It allows learning—including research, collaboration, creating, writing, production, and presentation—to occur almost anywhere. Its robust tools support creativity of thought—through collaboration, generation, and production that does not require manual dexterity. It fosters personalization of learning spaces by teachers and students, which both supports the learning activity directly as well as indirectly through providing a greater feeling of ownership and relevancy.[12]

Organizational models[edit]

Learning environments are frequently organized into six pedagogical and physical models:

  • Departmental model
  • Integrative model
  • Project based learning model
  • Academy model
  • Small learning communities model
  • School-within-a-school model

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eglossary, definition. Retrieved 2016-04-05
  2. ^ Mirriam-Webster dictionary. Retrieved 2016-03-20
  3. ^ Tanabata the star festival, 2013. Retrieved 2016-04-06
  4. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2016-04-06
  5. ^ H.G. Liddell & R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. Retrieved 2016-04-06
  6. ^ School Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 2016-04-06
  7. ^ σχολή, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  8. ^ Mirriam-Webster dictionary. Retrieved 2016-03-20
  9. ^ Renkl, A., Atkinson, R. K., Maier, U. H., & Staley, R. (2002). From example study to problem solving: Smooth transitions help learning. Journal of Experimental Education, 70 (4), 293–315.
  10. ^ Powell, S.R. & Driver, M.K. "Working with exceptional students: An introduction to special education". San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc., 2013, Section 2.2
  11. ^ Personalized learning, Dreambox. Retrieved 2016-04-06
  12. ^ 3 Ways Mobile Technology Is Transforming Learning Spaces, Dennis Pierce, The Journal, August 25, 2015. Retrieved 2016-04-07

Powell, S.R. & Driver, M.K. (2013). Working with exceptional students: An introduction to special education. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

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