Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Let's Put The Fun Back Into Funeral

There are three main reasons to work over the learning environment of your class. First, having a good atmosphere makes people happy and hence way more motivated and thus the learning easier. Next, as Marie and Hasse, a couple known for their good atmosphere in class, point out, they have experienced students to be more receptive and open to feedback in a positive learning environment. That simplifies the job for us teachers and increases the amount of content students can learn. Last but not least, studies show that if we learn something in one environment we recall that information best in that specific environment. Those environmental variables are called encoding specifiers. If you learn under water, you'll recall what you've learned better under water. If you learn in a bad mood, you will have a harder time to recall that information on the dancefloor than if you've learned it in a happy mood, because usually one enjoys parties :)

The question you must ask yourself before you talk about how to create that atmosphere, is what learning environment you actually want. Personally, this question answers itself quite easily with another question - If we have fun dancing it, why shouldn't the learning be fun? People are more likely to come and stay, if the atmosphere is good. For those who need to have full classes this is a nice side effect. But learning environment is not only atmosphere, but includes other variables. One other point I consider very important is to eliminate the fear of making mistakes. I'll elaborate on this in another article.
So how do you create a good learning environment? The following list of ways to create and enhance the learning atmosphere can be extended quite easily.
  • There are jokes you can pull, but just remember that it's not a stand-up gig but a dance class.
  • Demonstrating a wrong version as caricature can enhance the atmosphere.
  • Analogies can be used to improve the atmosphere as well. You can turn adults into giggly teenagers with sexual references and analogies where the two subjects compared are really contrary, work well too.
  • Changing partners also contributes to a good atmosphere. For example if students know each other, they more inclined to ask questions.
  • Not hiding mistakes when they happen, but rather acknowledging them, helps students to lose fear of making mistakes.

Whatever you want from your students, live it yourself. Enjoy the class, have fun with your material, by e.g. only teaching material you like, make mistakes, be human :)

I recommend you build "creating the learning environment that you want" into your class like the goals you define.

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