Determining the best way to layout and set up the physical space of a learning environment can be tricky. Great learning environments can differ wildly based on several factors, but the most important factors to consider are an educator's teaching style and the configuration of the physical space. Students may sit face-forward in a classroom while a teacher lectures from the front as a “Sage on Stage” engaging students with the curriculum. In other classrooms, the educator may allow the students to explore independently, while providing occasional advice, assistance, and correction. This method is commonly referred to as the “Guide on the Side” approach.
No matter what teaching methodology is used, the space should be conducive for both effective learning and teaching. In this guide, we look at how to develop an empowering learning space that conforms best to each methodology.
Sage on Stage
The “Sage on Stage” approach is a traditional mode of teaching. The instructor stands in front of the students to impart knowledge, while students sit in an orderly fashion facing the teacher.
In this context, the teacher is often the only person talking, while the students primarily listen. Many classrooms are set up this way, so teachers can cover an extensive mandated curriculum. Unfortunately, such a configuration does not allow students to participate actively.
While a lot of information is communicated, comprehension varies widely among students, because they are passive. In contrast, a more engaging teaching strategy offers a higher rate of comprehension.
Moreover, in this classroom formation, the amount of information each student consumes depends greatly on where they are sitting. One study shows that even in an acoustically good classroom, children receive only 83% of a teacher’s voice signal when they sit in the front row; 66% in the middle rows and only 55% in the back row.
(reference: infographic “Students hearing in the classroom” )
Guide on the Side
In the "Guide on the Side" teaching style, the instructor leads students through a process of exploration and discovery by circulating throughout the classroom to assist students as needed. For example, a teacher may have groups of students work on a critical thinking exercise and require each group to present their results. As each group works through the challenge, the teacher will interject with information or insights to steer students in the right direction.
This teaching methodology has clear benefits. Students are actively engaging with the material, and concepts are more effectively learned as a result. Teachers are also able to provide individualized interactions with students, which strengthens the learners' communication skills. The drawback to this approach is that it is time consuming and labor-intensive. Covering all of the mandated curriculum with this approach is challenging.
The Best of Both Approaches
Though lectures tend to be annoying to students and not as effective, they should not be abandoned. They are still the best method for delivering a large amount of information to many people at once. It is possible to blend the two teaching styles if your learning environment supports it. Since contemporary learners render traditional classrooms ineffectual, focus on new ways to bring high quality educational content through a wider array of mediums. We can have “Sages on Stages,” but they should find ways to engage students as to not limit the students' ability to learn.
Does Your Learning Environment Promote Engagement?
Student engagement is heavily influenced by their learning environments. Their level of attention, curiosity, interest, and focus are all directly correlated to how much a student retains. As a teacher, you already know the importance of involving your students in class, your classroom should also promote meaningful learning experiences.
Better student engagement will:
- Reduce disruptions in learning environment
- Encourage active participation
- Help develop excellent communication skills
- Improve learning performance
- Lead to development of a positive school culture
- Increase comprehension and mastery of the curriculum
- Lead to a healthy student-teacher relationship
From the biological point of view, the human brain needs a lot of energy to read and comprehend new information. Anything that adds mental taxation should be eliminated. The physical space should be optimized to reduce such unnecessary strain and promote engagement.
For instance, using classroom audio technology like a microphone system is helpful to both teachers and students. Voice amplification will naturally help teachers experiencing daily vocal fatigue. Students benefit as well by having lesson content clearly delivered. One study indicates that children spend 45% of school days engaged in listening activities, but the average grade school student misses 25% of what a teacher says during their class. If students do not clearly hear their teachers' voices, it will be discernibly detrimental to their participation levels.
(reference: infographic “Students hearing in the classroom” )
In addition to using a teacher microphone with your classroom audio system, adding a student pass-around microphone can be a good method to increase student participation. It encourages students to participate in discussions or answer questions more confidently, loud and clearly, even if they have a shy and small voice. Numbers of teachers and students have noticed how using a microphone adds an element of excitement to the learning process. See how Kernsville Elementary in Pennsylvania teaches students that their voice is important, and what they say matters with Juno.
Students deserve the best learning atmosphere possible. As a teacher, assess your teaching environment and aim to improve it. The success of your students depends on it.
Learn more about classroom audio solutions that can help you to solve these problems here.
Lastly, whole school communication matters:
You probably don’t spend much time thinking about your public address system. It’s just part of the building you inherited from your predecessor. Like the lights. It’s been there forever. And that’s the problem. As each year passes, these aging systems are quietly draining your school of resources, while the demands on them are steadily increasing — from school paging to emergency communication.
If you are considering updating your school intercom, paging system or emergency communication, read download this whitepaper “6 ways your PA system is letting you down” or visit FrontRow Conductor page for more information.