Teaching Tuesday: 3 Strategies to Prepare Your Learning Environment

By Dr. Tracy Vasquez and Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick, faculty

female teacher smiling in class to create happy learning environment

Strong relationships between teachers and students are the foundation to building trust and authentic communities in classrooms. Prior to remote teaching and learning, educators engaged in a variety of experiences to build those relationships. Even now, you can continue such practice by following these three approaches.

1. Provide Opportunities for Leadership

Building community is critical in nurturing a sense of belonging in the classroom environment. When students feel like you trust them with leadership roles, they are more likely to feel that they belong, and as a result, will meet your high expectations. Providing students with classroom jobs gives them a manageable level of responsibility. This could be a classroom greeter, phone call attendant, breakfast coordinator, paper passer, line leader, door holder, attendance delivery or calendar helper. In virtual settings the jobs may be adapted to time management assistant, breakout room coordinator, name picker for discussion participation, attendance helper, peer-tutor or chat monitor.

Another opportunity for leadership and belonging is through the implementation of classroom circles or classroom meetings. Students can be assigned to greet the class, share out a question of the day, reflect upon or lead a discussion about how to be prepared for the day, read aloud the schedule or lead a short game. Depending on students’ ages and abilities, you can scaffold their development in leading class discussions. The skills they are learning during classroom meetings not only build strong communication within the classroom or virtual setting but also can be applied to home life.

2. Authentic and Meaningful Feedback

As teachers we often provide immediate feedback to students, but surveying students for feedback on our teaching practices is just as valuable. By giving your students a voice in the learning process they are more likely to be fully engaged in teaching and learning. Feedback can be received through short surveys, choice in read-aloud or novels and projects.

In the virtual environment this can be done through survey monkey, Google forms, Pear Deck or other technology apps. When students learn through authentic projects, they can apply individual learning styles to share their progression toward learning objectives. This could be a screenplay or writing a song. When students are empowered in project-choice, they can learn about diverse histories and cultural backgrounds.

3. School and Community Engagement

You can help students feel a part of their community through designing school and community service projects based on student input. First, you can work together to identify an area of need and brainstorm solutions to address the need. For example, if many students are having difficulties getting to school, it may lend itself to a discussion on streetlight placement or crosswalks. Another regional need could be support for the homeless population and could lead to coordinating a drive to gather items to distribute. Another example to address food deserts could be to collaborate with nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity as well as nearby institutions of higher education to design and create a sustainable community garden.

Projects and strategies such as these help to build community among students and foster a strong sense of belonging in virtual and in-person classroom settings.

At Grand Canyon University’s College of Education, our teaching and learning cycle provides a structure for reflection for teacher and principal candidates. It provides guidance based on research regarding the professional teaching and learning process and is grounded in our rich Christian heritage. Just as the teacher and principal candidates personally move through the practices of learning, leading and serving, they also progress through the teaching and learning cycle. Learn more about earning your education degree from GCU and return each week for a new Teaching Tuesday post.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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