Positive Learning Environment

Katrina’s Discussion Board Summary

Thread 1- “Creating and Maintaining that Positive Learning Environment.”

Key Ideas Brought Forward and Discussed:

·         How little things can make a big impact on the learning environment

·         The learning environment needs to be co-constructed-“It’s a two-way-street”

·         The power of relationship

·         How music can enhance or become a distraction in the learning environment

·         The role of training toys

·         The importance of the physical environment

·         Whole Brain-Power Teaching

·         The role of memory

·         Building community

·         How critical trust is in the learning environment

Thread 2- “Positive Learning Environments”

Key Ideas Brought Forward and Discussed:

·         How to establish and sustain a positive learning environment

·         Classroom etiquette

·         Curriculum: offering freedom and choices

·         The power and role of humor/laughter

·         Teaching learners how to learn

·         Thinking “outside of the box”

·         The importance of the physical environment

·         Fostering cooperation and acceptance

·         How critical trust is in the learning environment

·         Importance of knowing and sharing information about the services that are available

Thread 3- “Language in the Classroom and Positive Learning Environments”

Key Ideas Brought Forward and Discussed:

·         The challenges of students speaking their own language in class

·         The “English only” approach

Thread 4- “How to Ruin the Learning Environment”

Key Ideas Brought Forward and Discussed:

·         Teaching attire

·         Side-chatter: strategies to prevent and stop it

·         Texting and cell phone misuse

·         Creating and implementing classroom rules

·         Checking your understanding of situations before acting

·         The impact of delivering assignments with no explanation

·         Professional image

·         We are all human

·         The power and role of humor/laughter

·         The importance of celebration

·         How food and shared meals can enhance the learning environment

·         Relationships on and off campus. What is appropriate and what is not

·         Facebook and other social sites

Please see appendix 2 for the links posted in this thread

Thread 5- “Cell phones”

Key Ideas Brought Forward and Discussed:

·         Cell phones and their negative and positive impact in the learning environment

·         Banning cell phones and other technology

·         Controlling the use of technology in the classroom

·         Polices: Do you have one? Do they work?

·         Technology and the self-directed learner

·         Cell phones and other technology as positive learning tools

·         Who is responsible for providing technology in the learning environment?

Thread 6-“How to Kill Learners Online Experience”

Key Ideas Brought Forward and Discussed:

·         How a negative online experience can impact the learner

·         Suggestions on how to prevent a negative experience from occurring

·         Online Instructor Training

What did I get from this discussion

My contribution was related to trust and I find that it is a huge step towards a positive environment. From my point of view, it is the first step that needs to be taken. For this trust to be built, the other factors mentionned in the discussion can help such as classroom etiquette and offering freedom and choices within the curriculum. The former is a way to show the students that we are taking the course seriously and we are expecting respect to be a fundamental rule. The latter is a way to involve the learners in their learning process and respect their needs and expectations.

Teaching learners how to learn is a topic that is totally on my agenda at short term. I do believe that it is a big aspect of the learning environement: learners who know how to learn are mosre susceptible to get along and work towards the same direction all together. This takes me to another important topic that I contributed withtin the discussion: learning communities. Creating a community of learners is not always an easy task especially when the students are very diversified in terms of age, culture, backgroung, etc. It is nevertheless extremely important. I have a challenge right now in one of my courses mainly because the age range that goes from 17 to about 70 years old. Of course taking all the differences into account is important for a positive environment but not always an easy thing to do.

The importance of the physical environment and  the role that music can play in the classroom are two interesting topics that I haven’t consider enough until now; especially music. I want to take the time to think of how to integrate that in my courses (at small dose though).

I have never thought that cell phone could be used in a positive way by learners. I am glad to have learned because it may be very useful for me at the Literacy Center where I want students to feel as comfortable as they would be at home because learning has always been a negative experience for them. For example, I let one of them keep his music on while we are working together (now I realize that do make a place to music in a certain way). I find that allowing them to use their cell phone as a tool to learn is wonderful. It doesn’t mean that they are not some rules to define about it. Being trained as a cognitivist, my perspective as always been Clay Shirky’s one because of the problem of multi tasking.

I have more to say about Thinking “outside of the box” because of an article that I read to late to contribute to the forum discussion. In the part called Taking a chance, the author talks about what Brookfield refered to as “imposter” and here is what she says: “we may not ask questions or provide input that may be outside the what others may be thinkingbecause we do not want others to think that we slid through the system somehow and are notreally supposed to be there in that learning session”. (Creating the same Learning Environement)

A long list of references posted in the forum on this topic

Links to articles, sites and videos provided in thread 1: “Creating and Maintaining that Positive Learning Environment”

Creating a Positive Learning Environment


Effective Learning Environments


Creating a Community of Learners-League PDF


Learning Communities at Ohio University


An Effective Learning Environment is a Shared Responsibility


Training Toys

training toys.pdf

How to integrate music in the classroom


Does listening to Mozart really boost your brainpower?


Chapter 6: The Psychology of Learning


20 Tips for Creating a Safe Learning Environment


A Positive Classroom Climate


Whole Brain Teaching: The Basics


Power Teaching: 6th Grade Class, Classroom Management


Learning and Teaching: Bloom’s Taxonomy


Long and Short Term Memory


Three basic techniques in whole brain teaching


Power Teaching Rules: Pros and Cons


Whole Brain Teachers of America site


Building Community


Building Trust


How to repair a broken relationship with your students   http://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/2012/09/15/how-to-repair-a-broken-relationship-with-your-students/

Links to articles, sites and videos provided in thread 2-“Positive Learning Environments”

Positive Learning Environments

From the New Zealand Qualification Authority


The LBS Practitioner Training: The Learning Environment


Faculty Focus-Humor in the Classroom: 40 years of research


Chapter 10: Use of humor in the classroom


On Humor and Education-David Low


Memory, Learning and Emotions: the Hippocampus


How Laughing Leads to Learning


Humor in School


31 Signs you’ve been a Teacher Too Long


Modern Day Classroom with the Simpsons


American Psychological Association: How laughter leads to learning http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun06/learning.aspx

College Humor: Chalk-Stick Cartoons


The Reggio Emilia Approach


The Physical Learning Environment


Together We Learn Better: Inclusive Schools Benefit All Children


Creating and Sustaining an Inclusive Classroom at the College Level


Building Trust


How to Repair a Broken Relationship with your Student


Quotes and References:

“A positive learning environment is one which encourages learners to achieve their potential, identifies and accommodates their individual needs and learning preferences, and deals sensitively with issues that arise within groups.”

From the New Zealand Qualification Authority


“Successful learning is, after all, about teaching learners how to learn, not about teaching content to learners” (Fenwick & Parsons, 2009, p. 169).

Fenwick, T. & Parsons, J. (2009). The Art of Evaluation:  A Resource for Educators and Trainers. Toronto:  Thompson Educational Publishing Inc.

 “Go to a party, and meet a bunch of new people.  Which faces are you going to remember?  The woman who made you laugh, the man who made you feel embarrassed, and your new boss — the ones who had an emotional impact. (Psycheducation.org, 2003)”.

Psycheducation.org (On-line, 2003), Retrieved from Sept 18, 2014 http://www.psycheducation.org/emotion/hippocampus.htm

It is noted that by Haaensen “that students are always motivated, not perhaps motivated to learn something, but to do something.  …it is not possible to motivate students but teachers may be able to create a learning situation, which is stimulating and attractive.” She continues “Creating a positive learning environment enhances learning and the sessions should include exercises which give the students enough responsibility and freedom”

Haagensen, B 2007 (Dialogue Pedagogy and Motivation. A case study in Swedish)

Link to article provided in thread 3-“Language in the Classroom and Positive Learning Environments”

Should ESL Instructors Speak Other Languages in the Classroom?


Links to articles, sites and videos provided in thread 4-“How to Ruin the Learning Environment”

Professionalism When Teaching in the Classroom


Should Teachers be Funny?


Definition of “Tightrope”




Quotes and References:

“Model appropriate behavior. Students are very sensitive to teacher’s attitudes towards the school and the class in general; therefore, teachers must be extremely self-reflective, making certain that they are modeling positive behaviors for the class. Videotaping several class sessions may make teachers aware of any negative feelings they may be projecting towards their students”. 

Forming Positive Student-Teacher Relationships (on-line, no date avail), Retrieved on Sept 23, 2014,


Links to articles, sites and videos provided in thread 5- “Cell Phones”

Banning cell phones from the class helps students focus


How to use cell phones in the classroom


Board starts pilot to encourage use of handheld devices in class as teaching tools


Cell phones affect the college classroom negatively


Technology in the Classroom: A persistent distraction


How to use cell phones as learning tools


Some schools rethink ban on cell phones


Why Clay Shirky Banned Laptops, Tablets and Phones from his Classroom


Poll every where


Cell Phones in School: Personally Owned Devices


My Virtual Child


Quotes and References:

Faculty Focus (April 2013) states “Once the instructor has a clear understanding of the potential positive or negative impact of allowing cell phone use, he or she must clearly state policies in the syllabus. If the faculty member allows phone use, he or she then must clearly state how the cell phone can be used. If no cell phone use is allowed, this too must be clearly stated and students need to know the repercussions for violating the policy. For example, if my students use their cell phones during class, they must leave class for the rest of the day. If the violation occurs in the clinical area, they receive a formal warning. After the second warning, they are dismissed from the program”.  


Reference: Faculty Focus. Cell phones in the classroom. What is your policy?http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-classroom-management/cell-phones-in-the-classroom-whats-your-policy/

Link to site provided in thread 6- “How to Kill Learners Online Experience”

Get Ready for Online Teaching


Student Engagement Technique (SET)

Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Technique. A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brief Summary of Chapters 1 to 4

“Learning begins with tudent engagement.” (p.4)

Student engagement = Motivation X Active Learning

Motivation and Active Learning work synergistically and, at the far end of the continuum are the transformative peak experiences.


Motivation = Expectancy X Value

Expectancy = the degree to which students expect to be able to perform the task successfully

Value = the degree to which they value the rewards as well as the opportunity to engage in performing the task itself


Self-Efficacy Theory

If a student is confident in her ability to perform a task successfully, she will be motivated to engage in it.

Attribution Theory

Students’ belief is shaped by their perceptions of why they have succedeed or failed in the past.

Self-Worth Models

When students don’t succeed they would prefer to question their efforts rather than their ability.

Four Typical Student Patterns
  1. Success-oriented student: accustomed to success, accept occasional failure
  2. Overstrivers: successful student but anxious
  3. Failure-avoiders: avoid too challenging tasks
  4. Failure-accepting: feel hopeless


Extrinsic rewards = quick fixes but counterproductive to have a student truly engaged

“Flow” = deep intrisic motivation _ may be helped by instructor if:

  • Goals are clear
  • Feedback is immediate
  • the challenge is balanced

Teacher can increase motivation by taking steps to increase the value of the learning to student and helping student hold optimistic expectations about their ability to succeed.

Active Learning

The mind is actively engaged. WHen new learning in readily comprehensible (it makes sense) and can be connected to past experiences (it has meaning) retention is dramatically improved.

Learning is a dynamic process.

Promoting Synergy between Motivation and Active Learning

  1. By creating a sense of classroom community
  2. By helping students work at their optimal level of challenge.
    • Tasks must be sufficently difficult to pose a challenge, but not so difficult as to destroy the willingness to try (p.27)
    • Three broad approaches to helping student work in their optimal challenge zones.
      1. Assessment and feedback
      2. Teaching metacognitive skills
      3. Empowering students as partners in the learning process. (When st have the power to make decisions regarding their own learning, they can take steps to ensure they are working in their optimal challenge zone).
  3. By teaching so that students learn holistically (We cannot seperate emotion, cognition, and the physical body).

My Reflection about this Reading

See Journal 1.

As a student, I would classify myself as an overstrivers. Difficult for me to assept failure because I always think I could have done better. The positive aspect of that is that I try to think of what I could have done better. The negative aspect of this category is to be always anxious.

As a teacher, I consider that I have been working pretty well on building community of learners. I am very interested in working better on the optimal level of challenge. I am aware of this as being important for the students’ engagement and I do try to always make sure my students in French are at the right level; I always take the time to talk to them about it if I have any doubt. I also try to be sure that the learners at the Literacy Center are getting activities that challenge them enough but not too much. Al ot of students at the Literacy Center has a low level of motivation, it try to “hold optimistic expectations about their ability to succeed” by telling them when I think an activity was too easy for them and aks them if they have the same impression.

Regarding the 3 broad approaches to helping student work in their optimal challenge zones, I believe I have made huge progress especially in my French courses in adding assessment and feedback. I still have to work on that at the Literacy Center and this is my short term plan. I have some hesitation doing about how to do that with the tutors I am training because they are volunteers. However, maybe they would feel like their work is more valued if I did  some assessment of their work. My technique now is to reinforce their learning by reminding them important points in the teaching process.

I do have to work more on teaching metacognition to my students. I already work on that in my French courses but it is a difficult taks with the students at the Literacy Center. My Video about instructional strategies is about in-class portfolio, basically helping my students to learn how to take notes. I am really planning to do that soon but helping them to take better notes is my way to help them oragnize the new knowledge they are acquiring and analyse it.

Regarding the holistic aspect of teaching, I think I do cover the emotional and cognitive aspect a lot in my teaching but certainly not the physical aspect. Except maybe when I expalin to my French learners how to pay attention to non-verbal communication.

Why did I choose Gamification?

I have always been interested in this topic but I have never taken the time to research about it. However, last time I was reading a job posting on LinkedIn for a Course Developer/Trainer position at UDUTU, among the desired skills was ” An active interest in gaming or game technologies would be an asset.” I then followed several links related to this topic and I realized that it is a BIG topic today in education so I definitely want ot learn more about it.

Here is the Wikipedia definition of gamification:

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems.[1][2][3] Gamification has been studied and applied in several domains, with some of the main purposes being to engage (improve user engagement,[4] physical exercise,[5] return on investment, flow[disambiguation needed],[6] data quality, timeliness), teach (in classrooms, the public or at work[7]), entertain (enjoyment,[6] fan loyalty), measure (for recruiting and employee evaluation), and to improve the perceived ease of use of information systems.[6][8] A review of research on gamification shows that most studies on gamification find positive effects from gamification.

Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification

A Blog as a SET?

Blogs in Plain English

How to use Blogs in a Course

Using Blogs as Instructional Strategies

My Thoughts and Ideas about Blogs as Instructional Strategies

I have always found very useful to take the time to reflect on my new learning, but I would never go through the process of doing it without a blog or the journal assignment. So thanks, Doug!

I know that it doesn’t seem very logical since our goals is really to learn as well as we can but time is a big issue in my life as it is in most adult learners’ life! I want to talk more about “blogging to improve students’ learning” (Orlando, 2011) and I kind of put Journal and Blog together for a part of what they can bring to improve students’ learning even though I am aware that Blogs add a dimension that is not present in a simple journal. In the textbook we are using for PIDP3250, “Student Engagement Techniques” (Barkley, 2010), SET 41 (p.324) is about Learning Logs. The purpose of this SET is described as providing “a formal medium for students to explore their individual learning strategies and styles”. It also mentionned that “this SET helps students take responsibility for their learning and practice the skills necessary to become independent, self-directed learners.” Becoming a self-directed learner, as we all know, at least from the fantastic discussion that is going on in one of our forum, is an important outcome to consider and it is an outcome we want to have for any course we teach. “Kris Kelly notes that blogging encourages higher levels of reasoning because the “focus is not necessarily on the content of the blog, but more on the process of constructing and evaluating knowledge helping us reach the sometimes elusive upper levels – analyzing, evaluating, and creating – of Bloom’s Taxonomy” (http://tinyurl.com/mtj6kf) (Orlando, 2011).

Now if a blog is shared, it becomes a social activity and all the specialists in adult education in general, agree about the fact that people learn better about content when they interact with other people about this content.

I havealready mentioned that I am not a big fan of social media bit I am, in general, pretty comfortable with computer tools, especially program that I used to design since I used to design Software User Interface as part of the specifications I had to create for the developper (I was a Computer-Human Interface Specialist in my past life). However, I find the user interface for blogs really not well done. This is the second blogger I used; the first one was Blogger and, I find that neither of these tools are user friendly. This point is important.

I understand that the choice of a specific tool among the social media tools is not so important. What is more important is the task inherent to a specific tool: in other words, what does this kind of tool allow us to do as a group of learners. However, the user-interface of a specific program may have a big influence on the acceptance of the tools by its users. This has to be taken into account as well.

Blogs are largely accepted, we know that, but it is because users get used of using anything even if they first have to struggle to use it. So thanks again, Doug for forcing us to go through this step: we all know how to build a blog now!!

I teach different topics and for each topic, my students can be very diversified in terms of age, level of education and computer skills or, more generally digital literacy.So I have to think twice before I ask them to use a tool like a blog.

I believe that the use of social media should be introduced progressively and, most importantly, clearly explained. Explanations have to be given not only regarding the benefits of such a use, but also concrete instructions about how to use these different tools. Screencasting will be of great use for the latter. I remember having to design demos and then ask a developer to develop them. The different screencasting software programs available for free makes the whole process so much easier. If we add to that the right choice of tool in terms of ease of use that should greatly help the students to buy into it.

In these conditions, I consider asking the tutors I am training at the Literacy Center to use a blog. I have to teach them how to teach and part of the difficulty is in finding the time to train them either individually or in groups. It is possible to try to gather them for a short training session, but this is not enough for them to integrate all that must be taught. In addition, it is very important for them to create a community of learners, since they are all regularly discovering a new technique to teach an idea, a new way to overcome a challenge, etc. while they are tutoring. My first idea was to create a Newsletter myself by gathering what I can observe or they have told me and add my page of “teaching”. Then I thought they should all contribute to this Newsletter and I started thinking of Google/My Drive, but then I thought that we should find a way to store this information/ these lessons so they are easy to read/access and there came the idea of a Blog or a Wiki. As Conrad and Donaldson (2011) mention: “The depth of thought in asynchronous activities is usually greater than in synchronous activities” so I am hoping that gathering their reflection in a Blog or a Wiki will help the tutors that I am training to reflect more deeply on their new insights while they will share them with others.


Conrad, R.-M. and Donaldson, J.A. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Orlando, J. (2011). Teaching with Technology: Tools and Strategies to Improve Student Learning. Faculty Focus _ Special Report. Retrieved from: http://www.facultyfocus.com/free-reports/teaching-with-technology-tools-and-strategies-to-improve-student-learning/