As a trainer, it's important to make sure you are teaching in the best learning environment possible. You want your learning environment to be conductive to high quality learning, so it's important to take a step back every now and then in order to reflect on what is working well, and what needs changed.
How would you rate your own learning environment currently? To consider how well your learning environment is working, it's important to look at a number of different areas, which we have listed below. To see how well you're doing in any given area, it may be a good idea to give yourself a rating from 1-5 for each area, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest.
Who's Asking the Questions?
It's important to look at who is asking the questions in your learning environment. Is it always the students, or are you able to ask some questions yourself? Instead of providing the answers all the time, make sure that you are also asking provoking questions, as this will let your students delve deeper into the course material themselves, instead of being told told the answers all the time.
You will also want to consider how you are responding to your students' questions. Are you scoffing at silly questions or do you turn each query into a learning opportunity? The last thing you want to do is discourage your students from asking questions and engaging with the course material, so think carefully about how you are responding and whether it needs some improvement.
Finally, look at what kind of questions your students are asking. The depth of questioning from a student is a natural form of assessment, as it shows what level their thinking is on. This may be a good indication of which students need a bit more help in class, and which ones have a firm grasp of the material.
Who's Doing the Teaching?
While it's obviously your job to be the main teacher in the class, it's important to realise that knowledge should not just come from you! Learning should happen through discovery, cooperative learning, questions, technology, and the students.
Are you doing most of the talking in your classes? If you are, it may be a good idea to take a bit of a step back and let other people have some time to input. You may have students who know a great deal about the subject at hand, so be willing to share the floor and give them the chance to impart their knowledge.
Is There Variety in Instructional Methods?
When you look at your lesson plan, are you using a variety of instructional strategies, or do you only lecture? Obviously, not all instructional methods will work in all classroom situations, but it's important to look at what you could be using in place of, or in addition to, your current system
It's important to consider whether your planning includes methods which are suited to different learning styles, as this will affect whether your students will be successful or not. All your students will have a different learning style, so it's important to make sure you are teaching in ways that will be suitable for everyone.
Cold you mix it up a little more when it comes to your delivery or are you confident in how often you use different methods? There's no point in mixing things up just for the sake of it, so it's important to make sure that you are planning your class to fit around your teaching style, and also your students learning styles, to make sure that everyone gets the most out of your classes.
How Frequent and Varied is Assessment?
How often are you providing opportunities for authentic assessment? Assessing your students should happen frequently in order to gauge what your students are learning. It should not always be done in the same way; some assessments should be casual and not stressful, while others can be more formal.
It's also important to give your students feedback whenever they are assessed, whether or not grading happens. Make sure to give your students constructive feedback, so they can see what they need to work on, as well as what they are already doing well on.
Is Critical Thinking Happening?
Are your students showing evidence of thinking critically or are you spoon feeding them information? As with the point above, it's important to make sure that it's not only you who's talking and answering all the questions. Make sure you are letting your students get involved with the class, instead of just dictating information to them all the time.
Do your students make connections and apply their knowledge to new situations? Are you encouraging and guiding critical thinking through guided questions and use of Bloom’s taxonomy? The use of assessments throughout the class will also help you to judge how well your students are grasping the material and how critically they are thinking about it.
Are all Types of Learners Valued?
Do your students know that you care about them as people and as learners? Your students need to feel safe and free to explore and engage in their learning. If they are asking questions and participating in discussion then you most likely have created such an environment. It's important to show your students that you value their input, as this should encourage them to get involved during classes.
It's also important to make sure that you aren't seen to play favourites with students, as other students in the class may feel undervalued, which may lead to them not wanting to take part in the lesson. This could affect their learning in the longterm, so make sure you are treating everyone the same way and being fair.
Once you have rated your learning environment 1-5 in each of these categories, see where you can improve. Areas where you rated yourself at 1-3 probably need improvement. Think through ways you can make changes in order to make sure that high quality learning is happening. If you need another perspective, ask a peer or supervisor to sit in on a class and rate you using the same areas. The more reflection you do about how you teach, the better teacher you will be!