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3 Types of Learning Environments

Apr 22, 2024

Think back to some of the classroom environments you’ve encountered on your educational path. During your childhood, the learning environments you engaged in may have been vibrant and colorful, with a desk layout that allowed for flexibility and creativity. Your high school and college learning environments likely emphasized the head of the classroom or lecture hall to direct your attention, with rows of desks facing forward or seats arranged around a central point.

Whether you signed in online or studied in a physical classroom, these learning environments likely had a profound effect on your primary, secondary, and post-secondary education experiences.

What Is a Learning Environment?

While a learning environment is most commonly a classroom, it’s more generally a space where students can feel safe and supported in their pursuit of knowledge and be inspired by their surroundings.

In addition to aesthetics, instructors can shape a learning environment by the way they teach and the atmosphere they create in the classroom. They can influence student learning by encouraging student participation and engagement. Doing so helps nurture positive and constructive feedback that supports exploration, community among peers, and diversity. Studies have shown that positive learning environments help increase student focus, motivation, and retention of information.

As students continue to grow and evolve as learners, the environments in which they learn evolve as well. Learning environments change over time, adapting to student needs. This means that teachers must continually optimize their learning environments to help students meet their educational goals.

What Are the Different Types of Learning Environments?

Learning environments can be categorized into three different types—or “landscapes”—which include the following:

  • Physical environment
  • Psychological environment
  • Emotional environment

This section explores each of these landscapes and how they differ from one another.

Physical Environment

A physical learning environment encompasses all the tangible aspects of a learning space. This includes the physical layout and design of classrooms, from vibrant and playful settings in elementary schools to more structured arrangements in colleges and universities. Physical environments also extend to home and distance-learning setups, where creating a distinct and comfortable learning space free from distraction has become increasingly important.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic prompted many students to engage in online learning environments, which, in turn, has caused teachers to implement tools like digital learning experience management systems and online courses.

Psychological Environment

An effective psychological environment encourages students to engage with the curriculum and each other in ways that enhance their personal and professional development. By building trust with students and fostering a safe, inviting space, teachers can create a positive learning environment where students have more opportunities to participate, ask questions, and receive feedback.

This type of environment can enable students to take risks or make mistakes more confidently, without fear of rejection. Learners are more likely to feel comfortable and valued in well-nurtured psychological environments.

Emotional Environment

School can be stressful at any age, which is why students need a positive emotional environment that supports their educational path. Part of creating a psychological environment’s safe space means addressing the emotional environment’s need for self-expression and the freedom to express emotions.

By supporting students’ emotional needs, teachers can help enhance their students’ emotional intelligence, boosting their confidence and self-esteem. Some ways that teachers can maintain a thriving emotional learning environment include establishing routines that students can rely on, encouraging diversity, and celebrating student achievements.

How Can I Create a Better Learning Environment?

There are several things that parents and teachers can do to create better learning environments for their children and students. Below are some useful tips.

At Home

  • Parents can outfit children with a personalized learning space where they can remotely attend classes with all necessary supplies, comfortable seating, a strong internet connection, and more.
  • Teachers can share upcoming lesson plans with parents by providing them with course materials, reading assignments, and other resources.
  • If a student is facing difficulty, parents and teachers can collaborate on ways to support the student, whether it’s through updated teaching methods, one-on-one tutoring, or counseling.
  • Parents and teachers can make study time or homework more fun with music, timed contests and drills, scents that jog the memory, or other unique learning approaches.

In the Classroom

  • Teachers might consider the layout of the classroom and how it supports student learning. Is there a better way to position desks so that everyone can see what’s going on at the front of the room? Would semicircles instead of rows create more face-to-face engagement and camaraderie? Don’t be afraid to try new things.
  • Teachers may encourage students to take part in creating their own learning environment. For example, students might create artwork to decorate the walls or be involved in open forums where they can ask questions or express concerns. Students will likely feel more connected to their environment if they have a hand in shaping it.
  • Teachers can employ one or more of the five most common educational theories to adapt lessons to individual students and their unique learning needs.

By creating positive and engaging learning environments, teachers and parents can lend their students the physical, psychological, and emotional support they need to thrive and be successful in school, the workplace, and beyond.

Next Steps

Want to learn more? The WGU School of Education offers more than two dozen online, accredited bachelor’s and master’s degrees for current and aspiring teachers eager to prepare students for promising careers. These programs are designed by industry experts and can prepare you to implement healthy learning environments for a diverse range of students with different learning styles.

In addition, WGU’s competency-based education model means that you advance through coursework as quickly as you show mastery of the material, so you can potentially graduate faster and save money. Get started today.

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