At the present stage of development of education and society, it is essential to study the learning environment as an educational phenomenon.

Taking into account the current achievements in the research of the learning environment, the experts from the Moscow City University and the Russian Textbook Corporation, with the analytical support of the World Bank, analyzed and summarized the existing developments related to the modern learning environment in schools. Below are the main criteria and indicators of the modern learning environment.

 

Physical space

1) Accessibility is the ability for students and teachers to use resources inside and outside the school building, and for the community – to be present in the school space. Its features are as follows:

  • all school premises, including a library, administrative offices, canteen, are used for educational purposes;
  • part of the core curriculum is implemented outside the school building;
  • the school hosts events with the participation of the local community representatives (not only parents);
  • adults and children with special needs have access to all educational resources and can attend school.

2) Transformability, the ability to transform the spaces in terms of its volume and functions, is characterized by these principles:

  • classrooms have relocatable partitions that allow transforming their capacity;
  • common spaces (halls, sports and assembly halls, schoolyard) are used for multiple purposes.

3) Equipment abundance facilitates the implementation of educational tasks with various equipment:

  • students do not need to leave the school building to express themselves or create a product – all technical facilities are located here;
  • vocational guidance/career advising activities are carried out with the use of new technology that is not yet used in everyday life.

4) Personalized space suggests a sense of belonging and ownership:

  • the design is child-centred;
  • educational and common premises contain products of children’s activities (slogans, drawings, posters, photographs of activities in process);
  • educational, common and administrative premises suggest the traces of teachers’ planning and implementation of their ideas.

5) Safety, the elimination of unforeseen risks for children and adults without limiting their freedom and infringing on their rights and access, is regulated with the following principles:

  • the presence of all participants in the educational process in the building is controlled unobtrusively;
  • the educational process outside the building is carried out with a reasonable degree of security control;
  • The movement of school visitors in the building is monitored by the security services without infringing on individual rights.

6) Age appropriateness is avoiding universal solutions for the school as a whole, attention to the age characteristics of children in specific premises:

  • taking into account age-typical interests and activities;·
  • taking into account the voices of different aged pupils when decorating the premises.

Participant interaction

1) Participatory approach is applied when decisions about the school’s activities are made with the participation of all interested (administration, teachers, parents, students):

  • any participant of the educational process can make proposals for the organization of school routines and events;
  • at least 75% of teachers, students and parents are familiar with the decisions related to school life made during the last 3 months.

2) Collaboration is cooperation related to the school functioning issues:

  • all important decisions are made through discussion;
  • the school has elected bodies of public administration.

3) Safety is a psychological comfort within the interaction of all participants of the educational process, a healthy psychological climate:

  • among teachers, there are no signs of psychological pressure, manipulation by the administration, colleagues, parents, students;
  • there are no signs of psychological pressure from adults and peers among students.

Digital environment

1) Accessibility (ubiquity) suggests that educational resources necessary for teachers and students can be obtained from anywhere in the school building (office, library, hall, canteen), as well as outside the building – the educational information environment of the school is available through Internet channels from personal and public (municipal) stationary computers and gadgets:

  • wi-fi is available across the school;
  • the school website contains not only “image” content, but also provides useful educational resources;
  • each participant of the educational process has a personal digital account available online.

2) Information richness expands the educational space to a global scale:

  • the school has subscriptions to various electronic databases (libraries, virtual museums, etc.);
  • students and teachers use the resources of authoritative sources of information when preparing for classes and implementing projects.

3) Safety implies that children and adults are protected by the school from the negative phenomena that exist in the modern digital environment during the educational process (not only in the school building but also outside it):

  • a filter for unwanted content is installed in the personal virtual account for all participants of the educational process;
  • the school information security system has protocols for protecting the personal data of students, school employees and parents.

Curriculum structure

1) Flexibility allows the schedule to be easily change depending on the current educational goals; unexpected but interesting and useful educational opportunities are actively included in the daily routine:

  • organization of extra-curricular educational events (lecture by an interesting person of culture or science, career advising workshop by parents, etc.;
  • for the full implementation of a project that requires an indefinite time, students have the opportunity to interact with each other and with the teacher for as long as they need;
  • the ability to change the distribution of classroom hours in real time.

2) Integrative character (clustering) of the curriculum allows for the interdisciplinary study of cross-cutting themes, including student groups of different ages:

  • students unite to study a block of subject content within one topic in one room; they start with a common introductory theoretical material; then they are assigned to tasks within the common topic, using various resources of one spatial cluster;
  • the core curriculum demonstrates interdisciplinary connections and applied resources;
  • the principle of peer education is implemented, in which older or more advanced students help younger or less prepared students to master the topic.

3) Personalization suggests the ability of each student to design and implement their learning path while maintaining the integrity of the pedagogical process:

  • students have an individual learning path designed with their participation, and progress through it at their own pace;
  • collective forms of work (excluding small groups and couples) take no more than a quarter of the educational process.

 

The main conclusions made by the research team are as follows: first, the organization of the learning environment is important to be humanized: providing with a new quality of space and new equipment will not suffice – it is crucial to train teachers how to organize such an environment and work in it. Infrastructure becomes a learning environment when subjects of the educational process are in focus. Secondly, for the development of a modern learning environment, it is important to apply a participatory approach in education. To do this, it is essential to develop new professional competences of teachers and managers: the teacher does not service the equipment but organizes the environment by using and transforming equipment and space to solve educational tasks. A student is not a passive “learner”, but a subject interested in his/her education.

First and foremost, the learning environment is the interaction of the teacher and the student.

 

Source:

Barsukova E.M., Belolutskaya A.K., Ivanova E.V., Le-van T.N., Shmis T.G., Ustinova M.A., Lozovsky M. B. – Formation of a modern learning environment. – Moscow City University, Moscow, 2019. (Барсукова Е. М., Белолуцкая А. К., Иванова Е.В., Ле-ван Т.Н., Шмис Т. Г., Устинова М. А., Лозовский М. Б. – Формирование современной образовательной среды. – Московский городской педагогический университет, Москва, 2019 г.)

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