5. Establishing a safe, supportive and intellectually challenging learning environment


5.1 Foster dynamic and challenging learning environments characterised by mutual trust, equity, risk taking, independence, interdependence and collaboration; they create conditions for students to question complex geographical ideas and issues, rather than accept them without further thought.

Focus question:
  • What are the elements of the learning environment that you create so that students are able to achieve optimum success and recognition?
  • What range of learning opportunities do you provide so that all students are able to achieve optimum success and recognition?
Further questions:
  • How do you plan for all students to have confidence to take risks in the geography classroom?
  • In what way are students able to ask difficult questions and express diverging opinions?
Samples of practice

(a) Backdrop:
In this sample the teacher, during a year 9 field trip to the coast, encourages the students to frame questions about the geographical processes that they are seeing and to work collaboratively with others. What are the positive characteristics of the learning environment created by the teacher? How does he convey this to the students? What words has he used, that suggest to them, they are in a safe, collaborative but challenging learning environment?

play video iconClick here to view this video sample

(b) Backdrop:
In this slide a student comments on the teacher’s approach in a year 12 class on topographic mapping skills and responds to the questions Was there anything that he did that particularly helped your understanding? and Why do you enjoy…listening to other people’s answers? What are the student’s key points regarding the way in which her learning has benefitted from the teacher’s approach? How does the teacher use questioning in this lesson?

Sample 7 GEOG 09 [5. Transcript of student interview]

(c) Backdrop:
This slide shows a montage of the teacher’s approach in a year 3/4 class on the topic of the Olympics. What are the key indicators, from the images, of the way in which the students’ learning has benefitted from the teacher’s approach? How does he use collaborative learning in this lesson?

Sample 9 GEOG 15[image – photo montage]

(d) Backdrop:
This sample provides contextual information of the teacher’s approach, in a year 10 class, simulating a response to a disaster on the Island of Montserrat, in which students are working in a collaborative manner. What are the key ways in which the teacher uses the simulation to create a challenging learning environment? How does he justify not providing answers to students’ questions in this lesson?"

Sample 10 [Contextual information “…The teacher has told the students that they should not ask him for answers as they are the disaster response team who must make decisions…”]

Further links and resources
Description of the positive influence of questioning and discussion – interactive teaching:
“Interactive teaching was strongly identified by students as positively influencing their learning. Often described as questioning and discussion, these are related and overlapping expressions and consequently were difficult to separate. Questioning is part of the means of developing a discussion…
Questioning plays a key role in learning. It can enable teachers to diagnose understanding and invites everyone to think. It makes thinking visible to teachers and learners. Good questioning necessitates listening, and at its best provides an interactive approach to learning. Successful questioning and directed discussion also help develop and deepen geographical vocabulary.”
Kriewaldt, J.& Hutchinson, N. (2009) Improving Understanding of Accomplished Teaching in School Geography Through and Examination of Learners’ Perspectives. Geographical Education 22: 31

Description of a teacher effectively interacting with students – using classroom space:
“The teacher’s use of space is crucial. A threatened teacher is more likely to be actually, or metaphorically, marooned on the front desk. Colloquially expressed as ‘my learning was helped when the teacher walked around the room’…Students were able to access help as they needed it and it demonstrated that the teacher was approachable. Relational space was under construction. Teachers were monitoring individuals’ progress, checking understanding, helping, offering praise, encouragement and affirmation that the student is on track”
Kriewaldt, J.& Hutchinson, N. (2009) Improving Understanding of Accomplished Teaching in School Geography Through and Examination of Learners’ Perspectives. Geographical Education 22: 34
 
1. Knowing geography and geography curriculum
Accomplished geography teachers: 
2. Fostering geographical inquiry and fieldwork
Accomplished geography teachers:
3. Developing geographical thinking and communication
Accomplished geography teachers:
4. Understanding students and their communities
Accomplished geography teachers:
5. Establishing a safe, supportive and intellectually challenging learning environment

Accomplished geography teachers:


6. Understanding geography teaching – pedagogical practices
Accomplished geography teachers:
7. Planning, assessing and reporting

Accomplished geography teachers:


8. Progressing professional growth and development

Accomplished geography teachers:

9. Learning and working collegially

Accomplished geography teachers: