The Physical Environment
According to Jones (2007) and Savage (1999), the classroom environment has proven to change and influence behaviors among students. The design of the classroom allows for some activities to take place and for other to not. It is important that teachers take into consideration the influence their classroom arrangement can make on their students. The environment of a classroom sends out symbolic messages to those who enter the classroom. At times, these messages do not send the right message to the students. The environment should reflect the beliefs and values of the teacher. Therefore, it is vitally important that teachers see what message their classroom sends out. In order to properly design an effective classroom environment there are four goals that need to be considered. The four goals are:
1. Developing a sense of belonging and personal identity
2. Enhancing competence and security
3. Promoting intellectual growth and stimulation
4. Accommodating privacy needs
1. Developing a Sense of Belonging and Personal Identity
When a student is in a classroom where their personal identity is enhanced the student will then feel that they belong and have a sense of ownership. There are many hours that a student spends in their lifetime, so it is important that they are in an environment where they feel comfortable and in result will be more willing to want to learn. According to Savage (2007), "Feelings of ownership and personal identity are enhanced by allowing students to participate in decision making about the use of the space - the grouping of desks, room decorations, and organization and placement of learning centers. Allowing them the freedom to personalize their classroom helps students to develop a sense of belonging and pride" (page 63).
2. Enhancing Competence and Security
The functional purpose of a space is to provide a sense of security for those in the room. Most students have their own sense of security in their own home. This is the same level of security that should be taken into the classroom since the students are spending the majority of their time in school. The students need to feel as though they have control of their own environment. As mentioned before, giving the students the ability to arrange their own environment will enhance their ability to feel safe. The first step into helping making a safe environment is choosing furniture that is appropriate for the students in terms of size and their learning levels. Examples of this would include comfortable seating and stable work stations. Since every student is different some schools are now offering furniture that is flexible in meeting the students personal needs. The video below describes a school that is implementing this flexible furniture for their students and showing its affect of their achievements in the classroom.
This video is a great example of the ways teacher are taking efforts to activitely help the environment in their own classrooms. However, it is important to take into consideration of additional dangers that might be in the classroom. This would include equipment that could cause students physical harm. Some unfamiliar and dangerous equipment could hinder a students learning if they are not explained how it is to be used correctly. For an example, a science class may be working with chemicals that could physically harm someone. It is important that the teacher takes time to explain to the student how to properly use the chemicals. Setting rountines and rules for equipment is important because it lets the student understand the consequences it not used properly. Finally, a space should also be a place where success is achieved and acknowledged. This would include bullentin boards in the classroom where students successful work is demonstrated. Although this may be difficult for the secondary level, there are still ways to show success in the classroom. "One high school teacher accomplished this task by displaying articles cut out of newspaper, recital programs, or other publications in which students in her class were named. She made a concerted effort to find something to display for every student in her homeroom. The effort paid off when student respect and affection and an almost total absence of discipline problems"(Page 65).
3. Promoting Intellectual Growth and Stimulation
In order to accomplish intellectual growth inside the classroom this would require a rich and varied environment. The classroom needs to be a dynamic and changing environment for the students. Often times classroom become stagnant and do not change. This will result for the class to become boring and promote behavior problems by the symbolism it is sending to the students. Changes that need to occur in the classroom often include updating the bullentin board and display areas. This simple task is a great way to help promote intellectual growth within the classroom and give the impression that its a dynamic and changing environment. However, some often changes should be avoided such as room arrangement and student seating. This can cause the student to feel unsafe in an environment they are unfamiliar with. The room arrangement should be created for the student to feel secure. It is important that if changes are going to be made that the teacher has quick access to all the students. Proximity and Mobility of seating arrangement is vital in accomplishing an effective room environment. The video below provides vital information on how different content area classrooms arrange their seating arrangements and an explanation from teachers on how affective it is for them.
4. Accommodating Privacy Needs
In the majority of classrooms, teacher design the layout to help accomodate group activites and social interactions. It is often that this type of layout does allow for the necessary privacy that students may need. However, it is a difficult task to provide privacy for all students with the small space that is given and the amount of people inside the room. Privacy that is given to students in the classroom has a large impact on their learning behavior. When the teacher designs the classroom it is important to remember this fact. Some students work better alone and away from other students. "One way of accommodaating the privacy need is to designate one corner of the classroom as a private work area. This area can be separated from the rest of the room by bookcases, file cabinets, or study carrels. Students move to that area to study or simply be alone. Providing this type of retreat for students communicates that you are sensitive to their personal needs"(Page 66).
"That the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time"(Romans 8:21-22).
The application for this section deals with the creation of an environment. In this verse, it talks about creation and the struggles it takes to accomplish it; however, when it is accomplished it is for the better good of God's children. Creating an environment that may be "decaying" and fixing it so that it can be used to glorify the learning is no an easy task. It takes time and commitment to accomplish. This type of process is not one to end but to continue through all the years. In the classroom, the environment is changing constantly to meet the needs of the students. Although, the changes from the teacher may seem time consuming and it is a painful process, in the end, we all know its for the benefit of the students.