Creating a Significant Learning Environment

November 21, 2016


When most people think of school, they think of a classroom full of students sitting in rows, taking notes while the teacher lectures at the front of the classroom.   Teachers teaching from a textbook, handing out worksheets for students to complete.  Students raise their hand if they have a question and are scalded if they talk out of turn.  This is the ‘old culture of learning’.

Anyone in education understands that the environment of classrooms is changing.  Teachers are no longer limited to notes already printed on transparencies, most schools have smart boards and 1:1 laptop or tablet initiatives, which allow students and teachers to have the world at their fingertips.  Teachers are encouraged to not be the center of learning, rather, allow students to work in collaborative groups and share ideas. The environment of a classroom is not what it was 5-10 years ago and the inevitable fact of education is that things are changing.

Teachers are becoming creative and looking beyond a worksheet for learning. Students are working in cooperative groups and developing appropriate skills for the future.  But creating a new culture in education to adapt to change is more than using the internet and working in groups and asking kids to look up information on google.

An important part of creating change in education is by creating a significant learning environment for students. According to the article, Applying the Principles of Significant Learning in the e-Learning Environment (2008), a significant learning environment ‘requires a shift in the focus of a course from the educator to the subject.’ I would like to create a learning environment that allows for my students to learn rather than me teaching.

A New Culture of Learning

fullsizerenderA New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, share ideas on developing classroom s to allow students a learning- based approach to education.   Students use their imaginations and inquiry to discover new ideas on their own, students learn instead of being taught information.  I would like to use ideas from A New Culture of Learning to develop a significant learning environment for my students.  While A New Culture of Learning does not it every aspect of teaching that should be incorporated to allow students the maximize their learning, it is a good start for teachers looking for ways to develop new cultures and environments for their classrooms.

Developing MY Significant Learning Environment

A few fundamental ideas from a New Culture of Learning that I would like to use to develop my significant learning environment are:

  • Inquiry, instead of telling students what to look for, ask them what they see.
  • Collective, allow students to work together using an online community format.
  • Learning through play, allow students to develop ideas through playing and creating.
  • Hanging out
  • Gaming

I am currently unsure how I will implement hanging out and gaming into my classroom but I would like to learn more on these topics.  There are other challenges that I will face when attempting to turn my classroom into a significant learning environment.


Failure. I think my number one challenge in developing a significant learning environment will be to accept failure.  When developing any new idea or practice, there will be trial and error.  When developing my significant learning environment, I will need to try new ideas in my classroom and I need to understand that some things will not work and that’s okay.

Resistance to Change.  In any situation, there is resistance to change.  Attempting to change the culture of the classroom can make some people skeptical.  I am hoping that by displaying a positive significant learning environment to other teachers around me, they will be less hesitant to change.

Planning for Change.  Planning engaging lessons can be hard and can be time consuming.  Just as I sit down every week with my team to plan, I think it will be important to take time every week to plan lessons that include many aspects of learning but focus on allowing students to make discoveries for themselves.

Impacting my School

I want to adopt a significant learning environment to provide an example for other teachers at my school.  I believe there will be much less resistance to change if there is someone that can model a successful significant learning environment on campus for teachers to reference and ask for help.  As with any new idea, there will be resistance to change; older teachers might be stuck in their ways because it’s ‘worked for this long.’ Hopefully showing resistant teachers that significant learning environments can broaden students’ eagerness and willingness to learn will give them the push to develop their classrooms to significant learning environments.

Thinking About the Whole Picture

While I would like to learn to use ideas from A New Culture of Learning, it’s important to understand that there are more aspects to teaching than just allowing students the opportunity to learn, I believe that in order to create a significant learning environment, teachers should maintain a classroom environment where students feel comfortable with their teachers and other peers.

When I think about my original plan for implementing blended learning, using STEMscopes to fill the gaps in student achievement, I do not think I was looking at a broad enough picture of implementing blended learning into my classroom.  Using STEMscopes is a part of the curriculum but blended learning is more than using a program, it’s about developing a community of learners.  I hope that I am able to continue to learn and adapt my classroom to become a significant learning environment for my students.


Magnussen, L. (2008). Applying the principles of significant learning in the e-learning environ- ment. Journal of Nursing Education, 47(2), 82- 86.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace?