Creating an environment where students can flourish and learn to the best of their ability should be the ultimate goal for educators.
Effective education requires many different factors, both in and out of the control of schools and educational institutions. Teachers play a vital role in delivering information and encouraging engagement and discussion. Facilities are important to provide students with the appropriate equipment and surroundings in which they can relax and engage with the curriculum. Many other factors have to be present for students to make the most of their time in education.
An important factor that can be overlooked is safety in education. Just like professionals are less likely to do their job properly in unsafe working conditions, students are unlikely to flourish if the learning environment detracts from their ability to do that.
In this article, we delve into what a safe learning environment is and how it can be achieved to give students the best experience.
What constitutes a safe learning environment?
Safety in a learning environment can encompass many different factors, both physically and psychologically speaking.
In a physical sense, a safe learning environment is optimised to create comfortable conditions in which students can focus on education and not be distracted by their surrounding environment. This includes things like light, temperature, ventilation, seating and classroom layout. Safety should also concern any equipment or physical hazards that might be present in the classroom.
From a psychological standpoint, a safe learning environment is one where individuals feel comfortable and secure enough to engage in class activities and with their peer group. This can be determined by the relationship with the teacher and with their classmates. Feeling comfortable and safe in a learning environment is a significant factor in allowing students to flourish and reach their potential in the educational journey. Without it, students are less likely to retain information and less likely to engage in the learning experience as a collective.
How can a safe environment be created?
Knowing what a safe learning environment is and how it can be created are two very different things. Implementation is always more difficult than planning, but teachers and educational institutions have a role to play in striving for these sorts of environments to help students flourish.
First of all, classrooms need to be designed and created to optimise learning conditions. Enough natural or healthy artificial light will ensure that students are alert, whilst limiting distractions can help to avoid attention waning from the teacher. Seating, desks and workstations should be as ergonomic as possible to ensure that students are comfortable. Temperatures should be kept at a moderate and consistent level for the benefit of everyone in the room, including the teacher.
In hazardous classrooms and laboratories, appropriate personal protective equipment should be provided to protect students from harm. Safety systems and evacuation procedures must be regularly reviewed and tested to protect everyone from potentially life-threatening situations.
As discussed before, safe learning environments aren’t just about physical safety and comfort. Teachers must create an environment where students feel psychologically comfortable enough to express their opinions, engage in activities and collaborate with peers. It can be difficult to optimise in large classes, but each individual has a relationship with the teacher and this can dramatically impact their experience and level of safety. Identifying students who need additional support or who are being subject to classroom bullying is important to let them have a voice in proceedings too. The fear of judgement or ridicule from teachers and peers can be paralyzing for students – so the teacher should do everything they can to ensure everyone is involved and engaged.