Creating an engaging, positive and effective learning environment is important, but it can be challenging to achieve without the right tools and mindset. Dr. Lloyd J. Thomas’s book ‘Practical Psychology’ discusses achieving what you want by moving with intention and action through the tension between where you are now and where you want to be. Essentially, to get what you want, the tension needs to be embraced through clear goals and taking action on those goals. Creating the learning environment of your dreams can be attainable through clear goal setting and action taking.
Here are some actionable ways to keep your learners intellectually active and engaged in an inspiring educational environment.
SMART goals are probably the most famous type of goals in the world of education–and it’s so popular for a reason. The goals that you set will be the anchor for your actions, so it's important that they are SMART enough to be clear indicators of progress and success.
Specific: To make your goal specific, the end-points of the goals must be clear. Vague end-points will make it harder for you to know whether you have achieved a goal.
Measurable: A measurable goal is one that has a quantifiable value to it or a specific target to meet. Inclusion of a specific number gives clarity on the target being aiming for, and allows for effective measurement of the goal. The measurement value should be changed according to factors such as class size, experience, course length and more.
Attainable: If the goal isn’t achievable, it needs to be modified so that it can be attained, such as the time it will take to achieve the goal.
Relevant: It goes without saying that the goal should be relevant to the success you want to achieve, such as learner satisfaction with training style.
Time-Bound: Setting a time limit, such as ‘by the end of the fifth week of the course’, allows for clear planning of actions that need to be taken.
An example of a SMART goal could be, ‘I will receive five survey responses with positive written feedback from learners about my training style by the end of the fifth week of the course.’ Think about the actions needed to be taken to achieve this goal, and plan them out.
Defining your goals will help you set the tone for yourself before beginning the course, which in turn will set the tone for the entire classroom. Having clear goals will help to approach training with solid preparation, motivation and enthusiasm, and this energy will be reflected by your students.
Beginning the course with your learners knowing your expectations of them is the best way to start off on the right foot and create a positive learning environment. Learners will be expecting their trainer to set the tone for the learning environment, so a good place to start is with something comforting and engaging for learners, such as an ice breaker activity. Spending time to clearly go over the expectations of the class, including behaviour, assessment standards and participation, will be something learners appreciate and will give them a chance to ask questions and potentially introduce themselves.
Striking a balance between following set rules and having an enjoyable learning experience may be a challenge here, but as learners become more comfortable with the style of training and learning, and you keep striving towards your SMART goals, positive synergy will naturally occur.
Learner feedback is one of the most important things for monitoring training effectiveness, showing clear indications for whether the learning environment is achieving success. One of the most effective, yet underrated, ways of gaining learner feedback is Kahoot. This can be especially helpful for online learning environments, as it gives learners an opportunity to use their technology in an interactive way for learning. Here are some more tips for successful online training.
Another way to gain valuable learner feedback includes surveys. If your training organisation utilises a student management system with a survey tool, you’ll be able to easily create custom surveys with powerful survey features. Being available before and after class to have individual conversations is also highly valuable for learners to ask questions and give insights into how they are progressing.
With all of this learner feedback, it will be easier to consistently tailor training techniques and learning plans.
Sometimes the beginning of a course can be full of energy and enthusiasm, but as the course goes by it can feel like a constant midday slump. Learners can lose motivation, and training may seem tedious at times. Continuing to focus on your goals and passion will help to re-energise your training, and your learners will reflect this energy again. Ensuring there are consistent and creative opportunities for learners to practice what they have learnt, ask questions and gain confidence will create an educational environment learners will look forward to participating in. Make sure to reward learners for their contributions as well–this will keep engagement high and inspire growth in learner confidence.
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