Managing the Learning Environment

A Group of female students work on computer-based problems with an instructor at the base of the UT Tower, the Texas Capitol looms in the distance.
Managing the Learning Environment
Teaching and learning do not happen in a vacuum. The intersecting contexts of the learning environment work together to create a dynamic ecosystem of physical, virtual, and cultural space. When managed well, all students have the opportunity to thrive.

How Can I Do This?

The learning environment is not merely a background variable. Teaching is most effective when the physical, virtual, and cultural spaces of the classroom are conducive to both personal and social learning.

How can physical space impact learning?

Whether your course is lecture-based or emphasizes group-discussion, think about modifying the physical space so students can engage with you, the content, and each other.

How can virtual space impact learning?

Whether you teach online or face-to-face, it is important to think about how technology can increase student interaction with you, each other, and the course content.

How can cultural space impact learning?

“That is, the headspace of the people who inhabit the learning environment...In the same way that we can talk about furniture in physical space, we can talk about furniture in cultural space: valued behaviours, routines, self-concept, the way the students and teachers think about what they’re doing and why they’re there” (Collis, 2016).

Why Is This Important?

The learning environment can produce conditions and mediate relationships that can positively influence student cognitive, social, emotional, and mental well-being, and increase student receptivity to you, content, exchange in the classroom, student motivation and study habits, and learning (Hess & Smythe, 2004).

Support student learning outcomes.

Research shows that purposeful modifications to course design and formal learning environments leads to “increased levels of conceptual understanding, especially among the top tier of students, improved problem-solving skills, attitudes and class attendance rates and a reduction in both the overall and at-risk student failure rates” (Beichner et al, 2007; Brooks, 2010).

Impact student success and motivation.

Research shows that if instructors provide a learning environment where students feel emotionally supported, comfortable and free to express opinions, and connected to the learning community, students demonstrate more interest in subjects, are more likely to internalize tasks, have reduced learning apprehension and may even be less likely to engage in academic dishonesty (Müller & Louw, 2004; Ellis, 2004; Bouville, 2010; DiPietro, 2012; Barr, 2016).

Provide structure in unanticipated difficult moments.

Effective learning environments are about "developing proactive ways to prevent problems from occurring in the first place while creating a positive learning environment" (Weimer, n.d.).


Practicing Self-Care

Maintaining focus and energy during busy days teaching and learning online

Inclusive Teaching and Learning

Inclusive Teaching and Learning

How might you best create opportunities for all students to connect with you, the course material, and each other?

Students engaged in active learning during class.

Instructional Strategies

Engagement is essential for learning.

Man crossing a river with water up to his chest & his pack lifted above his head

Starting Strong

Whether you are teaching your first class, teaching a new class, or teaching a new semester of a class you've taught for years, no class is the same.