Tutors: Sandra Sikanku
: Naa Korkor Appiah-Larbi
Classroom environment is vital in educating children with disabilities in the regular school setting. It is one of the key factors to note when including children with disabilities and without disabilities in the same school. Classroom environment for children with disabilities is the one that is conducive and devoid of any obstacles to accommodate learners with disabilities. The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)is considered as the normal that is conducive for children with disabilities to succeed as normally as possible in an educational setting (Douvanis & Hulsey, 2002).
Meaning of classroom climate
Classroom climate refers to the prevailing mood, attitudes, standards, and tone that you and your students feel when they are in your classroom (Bader, 2000). It is also referred to as the cumulative term for all the procedures, rules, planning and organisational strategies a teacher uses to prepare the classroom for learning and maintain a learning environment (Cummings, 2000).
A negative classroom climate can feel hostile, chaotic, and out of control while a positive classroom climate feels safe, respectful, welcoming, and supportive of student learning. How teachers manage their classrooms is an important part of achieving an effective learning environment. Educators know that all students learn differently, and choosing the right instructional style can mitigate behavioural issues and make good instruction possible. This means that the teacher should be well trained and resourceful in the methodology and pedagogy of teaching and learning. Since all children do not learn at the same pace, when the teacher knows the varieties of instructional strategies to be employed to suit all learners in the classroom, it makes the classroom welcoming and friendly for every student. However, if a certain instructional method suits a particular learner in the classroom, it makes some learners feel uncomfortable in the classroom and can be considered as negative classroom climate. In order for the teacher to achieve the instructional objective, the classroom climate should be positive to support learning for all learners.
Characteristics of Classroom Climate
A good classroom climate should exhibit the following characteristics:
- Assessment is persistent, authentic, transparent, and never punitive
This means that a teacher should continuously assessed learners to identify their needs, assessment should be based on what the learners know, and the results of the teacher’s assessment should not be used as the basis for punishing and/or categorizing learners into low or high achievers in the classroom. Thus, the assessment tools to use should be friendly to all learners in the classroom.
- Criteria for success are balanced and transparent.
This means that practices that promote success such as “participation,” assessment results, attitude, rules or other individual factors, should be meaningfully melted into a cohesive framework that helps all learners in the classroom.
- Learning habits are constantly modelled
Cognitive, meta-cognitive, and behavioural “good stuff” is constantly modelled. Learning habits such as curiosity, persistence, flexibility, priority, creativity, collaboration, revision, and even the classic habits of mind must place emphasis on so that what learners learn from those around them is less directly didactic, and more indirect and observational.
- There are constant opportunities for practice
Thus, complex ideas are re-approached from new angles. Divergent concepts are contrasted. New concepts are taught, from the simple to the complex in an effort to maximize a student’s opportunities to learn and demonstrate understanding of content.
- The students have the liberty to ask questions
The classroom should not intimidate or frighten learners from asking questions. For example, the teacher’s demeanour should not serve as scaring point to learners in the classroom and also should be devoid of teasing among learners in the classroom.
- Ideas come from divergent sources
A good classroom climate is the one in which ideas come from different sources and not only one direction in order to promote democratic environment.
- A variety of learning models are used
Inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, direct instruction, peer-to-peer learning, school-to-school, eLearning, Mobile learning, the flipped classroom, etc. these create enough chances to suit every bit of content, curriculum, and learner diversity in the classroom.
Ways of ensuring good classroom climate
Glasser (1990) suggested the following as some of the ways of ensuring classroom climate:
- Have rules: It is important to have a basic set of rules for students to follow. These regulations will help maintain classroom management and discipline. These rules do not have to be anything advanced; they can be as simple as making sure that all students adhere to timely attendance and making sure that everyone knows the consequences of missing or late assignments. In formulating the rules and regulations, the students should be involved. This will make it possible for them to adhere to them. If the rules are imposed, they have challenges obeying them.
- Have expectations: If your students know what you want from them, they are more likely to exhibit the type of behaviour you want. Start out the day with explaining what you expect from your students and how they are expected to behave. The teacher should be detailed and positive.
- Make students aware of the rules: Every school has its own disciplinary rules that students should be expected to flow. Make sure that your students are aware of the rules and the consequences if the rules are not adhered to.
- Make the rules known to parents as well: Students’ parents should also be aware of the management techniques that you are implementing in the classroom. The teacher should ask parents to go over these rules with the students at home so that everyone is on the same page, and so that students know that their parents expect this behaviour from them as well.
- Review rules regularly: one particular feature children need is consistent. The teacher should remind his students regularly about the rules and expectations for their behaviour to aid in proper classroom management. Ask them if they have any questions and allow them to voice their opinions.
- Be firm and consistent: As a teacher when you make your rules to manage your classroom, make sure that they are realistic and void of any inconsistencies. Approach the rules in a positive manner so that students do not associate any negativity with them. Feel free to reward students for their positive behaviour when you see that they are contributing to effective classroom management.
- Be professional: An effectively managed classroom is conducted with professionalism and adequate structure.
Importance of good classroom climate
Amissah (2000) postulated the following benefits of good classroom climate:
- It makes students to be comfortable in the classroom because they will be aware of what is expected of them in the classroom.
- It facilitates teaching and learning.
- A good classroom climate enables the teacher to achieve his or her stated objective(s).
- It also promotes positive behaviours among students in the school and the society at large.
- It ensures discipline in the classroom.
- It also provides the students with an opportunity to think and behave in a positive manner.
Physical classroom arrangement
The spatial structure of the classroom or physical arrangement refers to how students are seated, where the students and teacher are in relation to one another, how classroom members move around the room, and the overall sense of atmosphere and order (Savage, 2015).
Importance of physical classroom arrangement
According to Barder (2000), physical classroom arrangement serves the following implication in the classroom to the teacher and the students:
- Maximises the teacher’s ability to see and be seen by all his or her students; facilitates ease of movement throughout the classroom.
- Minimises distractions so that students are best able to actively engage in teaching and learning.
- Provides each student and the teacher with his or her own personal space and ensuring that each student can see presentations and materials posted in the classroom.
- The physical arrangement of the classroom can serve as a powerful setting event for providing students effective instruction and facilitate positive teaching/learning interactions.
Types of Physical Arrangement
Basically, there are three main types of physical classroom arrangement (Hastings & Schweiso, 2005). These are:
- Horse shoe shape or U-shape layout
- Circular arrangement, and
- Traditional arrangement (large or small)
Traditional arrangement (large or small)
The traditional type of arrangement in the classroom is where desks or table and chairs are arranged in a row or column equidistant from each student. Also, in a traditional classroom all desks face the chalkboard and teachers’ desk. The traditional arrangement is the common and most predominant type of physical arrangement in the classroom.
Fig.1.The traditional arrangement
Advantages of the traditional arrangement
- This layout is very effective if teacher lesson often uses the projector slides and a chalkboard.
- It is also suitable for teacher centred classes or lectures when the class size is very large.
- It encourages focus on the students and the content.
- This arrangement is easy to implement with large classes.
- The problem with this layout is that, students sitting at the back rows are more likely to be disengaged, lose focus and converse with others in the classroom since the teacher is very far away from the students.
- It is not useful and effective for classes designated for conversation and interactions.
- It does not also permit the teacher to observe all students in the classroom when the classes’ size is large.
With this arrangement, desks or chairs are arranged in a circle or half circle. Everyone sits in the front row. It allows the instructor to see everyone from an equal distance and communicate easier with students.
Fig.3.The circular arrangement
- Everyone in the group is involved in the instruction and discussion.
- There is no table in the middle, therefore students are unobstructed and can speak directly to each other.
- Creates equality among the group with no designated leader position.
- It can only handle small group of students
- Not conducive to visual aids or audio-visual presentations.
Learning centres are areas/activities throughout your program that allow children to manipulate materials, explore ideas, discover consequences, build, create and express themselves through art mediums (Casey, 2010). Learning centres can be created by the teacher so that the different learning styles of all children in the classroom can get the opportunity to make decisions and choose the timing of his or her learning.
Guidelines to consider when creating learning centres
According to Goncu and Gaskins (2007) teachers must consider the following when setting up learning centres for children:
- Begin with 1-2 centres to teach children how to participate.
- Set the rules regarding how each centre should be used.
- Consider which developmental guideline/skill can be reinforced with the activity (in other words, has a focus for the play).
- Supply materials that are age and developmentally appropriate.
- Allow children to discover the materials through manipulation.
- Observe and assess the children as they participate in each centre (centres provide a wonderful opportunity for informal assessment or anecdotal recording).
- Teach children to be good citizens by cleaning up and restoring the centre to an orderly learning environment.
Forms of learning centres in the school
Brewer (2004) listed the following as some forms of learning centres in the school;
- Art centre. Here children are given the opportunity to make choices colour identification, colour mixing, drawing and designing work.
- Reading centre. Here children are given remediation on reading.
- Science centre. Here, children are taught learning about life science (themselves and family), learning about earth science (their immediate world) and Learning about technology (cars, trucks, computers etc.).
- Game and puzzles centre. Children are taught learning to play the game, how to put the puzzle together Problem solving, number, colour, letter recognition.
- Sensory centre. This the place where the teacher teaches children sensory sense like touching, seeing, smelling, tasting and hearing and also learning to identify different sensory material.
- Music centre. Here children are given the opportunity for feelings through exposure to different types of music, learn to enjoy listening and singing with music.
- Library centre. Working on pre-reading skills, learn how to increased vocabulary, recognizing letters in words and learning to manipulate books.
- Active play centre. In this place, the teach teaches children on physical strength and endurances, development of large motor skills, eye, hand and brain coordination.
Importance of learning centres
Brewer (2004) postulated the following as benefits of learning centres in the school:
- Learning centres projects can be great hands-on reinforcement activities to support a new skill taught.
- Learning centres provide an opportunity to functions as part of the group and provides the child the chance to practice social skills.
- Learning centres are great situations to teach cooperation, teamwork, respect and empathy for other class members.
- Learning centres can help teach a child the rules and regulations of play.
- Learning centres can challenge children to learn what they are capable of doing and what they still need more practice to perform.
- Learning centres are great models for helping children learn to problem solving.
- Learning centres provide an opportunity for children to work on conflict resolution.
- Large motor learning centres can help a child develop physically in strength and skills.