Analyzing the Learning EnvironmentWilliam Allan Kritsonis, PhDQuestions that should be considered when reading this chapter:• What factors contribute to a successful learning environment?• What are the three domains of learning?• What the four learning style modalities?• What is a standard-based curriculum?• What are the six principles of behavior management?The basic goal in education is to establish and maintain a successfullearning environment. Educational leaders should consider several factors inthe effort of creating a learning environment that is conducive to successfullearning. Among these factors to be considered are the allowances made forthe student’s learning styles and the acknowledgements of the impact it hason quality education. The needs of the learner should be the basics for allinstructional methodologies and curriculum design. Another factor toconsider in successful learning environments is effective behaviormanagement. Behavior management is a foundation in successful learningenvironments.
Learning Domains:A comprehensive definition of learning style has been adopted by thenational task force, comprised of leading theorists in the field and sponsoredby the National Association of Secondary School Principals. This groupdefined "learning styles" as the composite of characteristic cognitive,affective, and physiological factors that serve as relatively stable indicatorsof how a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to the learningenvironment (Keefe, 1979). These factors are direct consequences ofBloom’s Taxonomy developed in 1956.Bloom’s Taxonomy defines the cognitive domain as the acquisition ofknowledge. It has three instructional levels including fact, understanding,and application. The fact level is a single concept and uses verbs like define,identify, and list. The understanding level puts two or more conceptstogether. Typical verbs for this level include describe, compare and contrast.The application level puts two or more concepts together to form somethingnew. Typical verbs at this level include explain, apply, and analyze (Vogler,1991).The affective domain is defined through Blooms as being based uponaspects of behavior. The three levels in the domain are awareness,
distinction, and integration. The verbs for this domain are limited to wordslike display, exhibit, and accept. The first two levels are cognitive;integration is behavioral and requires the learner to evaluate and synthesize(Vogler, 1991).The psychomotor domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy is skill oriented. Thestudent produces products. The three practical instructional levels includeimitation, practice, and habit. The psychomotor domain is based on ademonstration delivery and the first level, imitation, will be a return of thedemonstration. The practice level will be a proficiency building experiencethat may be conducted by the student without direct supervision. The habitlevel is reached when the student can perform the skill in twice the time thatit takes an expert to perform (Bloom,1956).Learning StylesTeaching individuals through their learning-style strengths improvestheir achievement, self-esteem, and attitudes toward learning (Dunn &Dunn, 1999). Children learn in different ways and should be taught in themethod that is conducive to their learning style. These learning stylesinvolve four modalities: auditory, visual, tactual and kinesthetic.Children who are auditory learners find it easy to learn by listening.They enjoy dialogues, discussions, and plays. They often do well working
out solutions or problems by talking them out. They are easily distracted bynoise and often need to work where it is relatively quiet. Students often dobest using recorded books (Learning, 2000). Often information written downwill have little meaning to the auditory learner until it has been heard - itmay help auditory learners to read written information out loud.Visual learners make up around 65% of the population (LearningStyles, 2000). Students who have visual strength or preference like theteacher to provide demonstrations. They find it easy to learn throughdescriptions. They often use lists to keep up and to organize thoughts. Theyoften recognize words by sight. They often have well developedimaginations. Visual learners relate most effectively to written information,notes, diagrams and pictures. Typically they will be unhappy with apresentation where they are unable to take detailed notes - to an extentinformation does not exist for a visual learner unless it has been seen writtendown. This is why some visual learners will take notes even when they haveprinted course notes on the desk in front of them (Dunn & Dunn,1999).Tactile learners are students who have an tactual strength orpreference often do best when they take notes either during a lecture or whenreading something new or difficult. They often like to draw or doodle to
remember. They do well with hands-on such as projects, demonstrations, orlabs (Learning Styles, 2000).Kinesthetic learners make up around 5% of the population (LearningStyles, 1996). Kinesthetic learners are students who have a kinestheticstrength or preference often do best when they are involved or active. Thesestudents often have high energy levels. They think and learn best whilemoving. They often loose much of what is said during lecture and haveproblems concentrating when asked to sit and read. These students prefer todo rather than watch or listen. Kinesthetic Learners learn effectivelythrough touch and movement and space, and learn skills by imitation andpractice. Predominantly kinesthetic learners can appear slow, in thatinformation is normally not presented in a style that suits their learningmethods.Curriculum DesignCurriculum development is an issue facing many school districts. Theaccountability issue along with the need for standard implementation hascaused districts to feel an urgency to design a curriculum which isassessment driven. Many educators and advisory groups emphasize highstandards as an important factor in improving the quality of education for
all students. As a result, schools and districts are looking at ways to developa high-quality curriculum that is based on standards (Pattison & Berkas,2000)."The standards-based movement in America is on solid footing and isslowly but surely changing the way we think of teaching and learning inAmericas classrooms," states the American Federation of Teachers (1999)."Nearly three-fourths of the teachers who have worked with standards for atleast six years say the standards have had a positive impact on their schools."(p. 12). Ravitch (1995) adds, "Standards can improve achievement byclearly defining what is to be taught and what kind of performance isexpected" (p. 25). Many efforts to improve education begin with the processof integrating standards into the curriculum."The idea behind standards-based reform is to set clear standards forwhat we want students to learn and to use those academic standards to driveother changes in the system," notes the American Federation of Teachers(1999). Standard-based curriculum development includes not onlycurriculum but it includes instruction, and assessment but also professionaldevelopment, parent and community involvement, instructional leadership,
and the use of technology and other resources. Curriculum development is acontinual process.Behavior ManagementManagement of student behavior is a major concern of teachersbecause of its importance in establishing a successful learning environment.Creating the opportunity to learn and develop both academic and behavioralskills is essential to an effective classroom. The overall purpose of behaviormanagement is to aid students in displaying behaviors conducive to learning(Instructional Resources, 2000).Behavior management is a process that involves strategies that assistin managing students and promoting positive behavior. There are sixprinciples that should be considered in the process of creating a successfullearning environment:• Negative consequences sometimes change behavior, but theydo not change attitude.
• Only positive reinforcement strategies produce long-termattitudinal change.• Negative consequences do not improve the behavior ofimpulsive children and frequently increase the frequency andintensity of misbehavior.• Cognitive control of behavior can be learned through the use ofappropriate positive reinforcement systems.• Positive reinforcement systems must be incremental in naturesuch that the child can directly observe even smallimprovements in behavior.• You must always reinforce the final compliance with adultauthority no matter how long it takes to get there (Walker,1997).Behavior is a concern for educators because it is related to effective learningfrom both the students and teachers perspective. When a classroom isfree of behavior disruptions, students can use classroom time foreffective learning.
A successful learning environment is the ultimate goal of all schooldistricts. Certain factors should be considered in the quest for this ultimategoal. Individual learning styles, curriculum aligned with academic standardsand maintaining effective behavior management are factors that should beused in the analysis of successful learning environments.Definitions:• Learning Style: the composite of characteristic cognitive, affective,and physiological factors that serve as relatively stable indicators ofhow a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to the learningenvironment (Keefe, 1979).• Cognitive domain: the acquisition of knowledge (Bloom, 1956).• Affective domain: based upon aspects of behavior (Bloom, 1956).• Psychomotor domain: based upon skill acquisition (Bloom, 1956).• Standards-based reform: is to set clear standards for what we wantstudents to learn and to use those academic standards to drive otherchanges in the system (AFT, 1999).
• Behavior management: the process that involves strategies that assistin managing students and promoting positive behavior (Walker,1997).LinksLearning Styles and Domains:Applying What We Know Student Learning Styles:http://www.csrnet.org/csrnet/articles/student-learning-styles.htmlLearning Styles: Nurturing the genius in each child:http://www.geocities.com/~educationplace/ls.htmlHow Your Learning Style Affects Your Use of Mnemonics:http://www.mindtools.com/mnemlsty.htmlCurriculum Design:Critical Issue: Integrating Standards into the Curriculumhttp://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/content/currclum/cu300.htm
What a Curriculum Should Contain:http://www.ils.nwu.edu/e-for-e/nodes/NODE-72-pg.htmlBehavior Management:Behavior Articles:http://cpt.fsu.edu/tree/behavior.htmlSix Principles of Behavior Management:http://www.wm.edu/TTAC/articles/challenging/six.htmBehavior Management:http://www.para.unl.edu/para/Behavior/Intro.html