When teaching your course, one thing that you may not consider immediately, is the classroom environment. Giving some consideration to the teaching and learning environment can help you design better activities for your students; helping with student engagement and interaction.
In most cases, you don’t get a choice for your teaching environment. You may have an assigned classroom. Once you know where you are teaching, there are a few things you can do to make the environment work for you.
Consider your teaching style and the environment you want to create for learning.
Everyone has a teaching style. Some instructors are great lecturers while others are great at facilitating discussion. Some instructors just have a knack for facilitating group projects or including the public in their course. Having a preferred teaching style is okay. Identify your style and embrace it. If you are going to lecture, make sure your lectures stimulate thinking, pose questions to your students, and allow them to have a few moments to answer them.
Decide what kind of learning environment you want to create.
It is understood, that you can’t design or construct the perfect physical environment that is conducive to learning, but you can affect the atmosphere that you create. The environment you create will be largely based on your teaching style. If you want students to work with each other in groups, you need to have transparency and let your students know this. Let them know that their learning and the learning of others is dependent on their participation in the group. If you want students not to sit passively during your lectures, then task them with a challenge. Ask them to answer some questions, or stop and pose questions to them. Whatever environment you want to create make sure it coincides with your teaching style and also coincides with the goals of the course and the objectives for students.
Evaluate the environment you teach in.
Before your class starts, try and visit the classroom. Take a look at the different elements of the classroom and think about how it can work to create the environment or atmosphere you want to create.
If you are teaching a large class but want to incorporate group work into class time activities, then be sure to evaluate the furniture in the class. Is the furniture moveable or fixed? Can your reorganize the tables and chairs to help promote collaboration? Think of how many students you have, and how you wish to task them with activities. How can you arrange the furniture to help them accomplish these collaborative tasks? Be sure to consider how many groups you want to create and how you would arrange the furniture to help hold these groups. If you want to create six groups, but can only rearrange the furniture to facilitate five groups consider distributing the 6th group into the other five groups.
If you are in a room with furniture that is fixed, is there a way in which you can still comfortably form groups? Are there study rooms or breakout rooms nearby that can be utilized. If tables are in fixed rows, can students simply turn around and partner with students behind them? Can students still effectively collaborate when placed in a linear form? How big can the groups be for this to be successful.
You may have to reconsider some activities you have planned to make allowances for a limiting environment. If you need help with this, please visit us in the Teaching Centre, and we will be glad to work with you on this challenge.
Evaluating and Understanding the Technology in the Classroom
Each classroom has different technologies in it; some have projectors while others have SMARTBoards. Think about what you want to teach and the activities that you have planned. Is there any technology you will need to utilize? Be sure to go into the classroom and make sure the class has everything you need. If you are bringing tech to the class, such as your laptop or clickers, make sure you can integrate your technology with what is available in the classroom.
Do you understand how to hook your laptop to the projector? Do you need an adapter to hook into the projector? IT has classroom support for technology in the classroom, and they will be glad to help you troubleshoot any technology you may encounter in the classroom. You can call 2490 from any classroom phone and have the IT solutions centre direct you to classroom support. The Teaching Centre is also glad to help with any questions you have in regards to how to best integrate technology into your courses. We will work with you to make sure you are using the right technologies to help you accomplish your teaching objectives.
Changes in the environment throughout the semester.
Sometimes the technology in a room changes, or you plan impromptu activities that better help you meet teaching goals. If you need to try things out before going into the classroom, the Teaching Centre does have a learning lab available in which you can hook up and try new technologies. The staff at the Teaching Centre will be able to help you troubleshoot these technologies and help you refine activities so best meet your teaching goals.