Do you remember your art classrooms at school? The classrooms I used at high school and sixth form in particular were crammed with inspiration: bits of trees hanging from the ceiling; draped fabrics; skulls or entire skeletons; dried plants; embellished glass gars; ex student's work; pottery and more...
When I moved onto the Foundation in Art and then my degree, the rooms were a lot less inspirational...and bland in places. As a trainee teacher, I hope to be able to ignite the imagination of my learners inside the classroom as well as out on gallery visits etc.
Should we inject a little more excitement into our learning environments for our lifelong learners? If so, how?
I teach numeracy in an Adult Community College. When I arrive for my class, an art class is well under way. I LOVE seeing this group of learners - they are having a fantastic time with paint/glue/fabric everywhere. I have no artistic skills what so ever but to me, this class is thrilling! The teacher is a lovely lady - she is full of praise for the students efforts. I am often invited in to look at their projects. The room is full of projects - it's great to see.
I try to get my students to do some creative things in my maths sessions! We cut out shoes, make paper planes and origami boxes, measure coloured liquids, make a terrible mess!
I think lifelong learning needs to be a fun environment!
Yes I think with any subject area, if you can make it creative and fun like you are doing, the students are more engaged and remember more of the content too.
I'm finding with some of my art students in FE, when we do anything, which means you need to cut out and glue, they think we're patronising them and they see it as something you do at primary school. They do get into it and I show them simple and more complicated images where the techniques have been used by artists, but it seems people can have the view the fun, exciting and what can seem simple stuff is for younger people and you have to grow out of certain things. The teacher I work with is always putting students work on the wall and making it as vibrant as can be and sometimes it seems their isn't many others doing it. Your high school and sixth form sound like they were fantastic environments Hannah, but unfortunately its not always the case and what you experienced at degree is what I've seen in colleges.
I think we need to take learning environments more seriously, there's a lot of psychology out there, which talk about creating a positive environment starts with the physical environment and walking into a room where its bright, colourful, different textures everywhere and where students can feel they can have an input into it, I think would help encourage learning and make students happier to be there. Not just art, but if every classroom the interior was designed by students, I would like to teach there and hopefully students would like to learn.
Yes, plus at the beginning of the year when work hasn't begun yet, the classrooms can seem bare, cold and lacking in inspiration. This is when students need inspiration the most- when it comes to choosing a topic or issue to study.
If a teacher can collaborate with students to make the environment more stimulating, it may also give the teacher ownership of that space as well as the students. Like you said, this would make teachers and students want to be there. It is more difficult if you move around a block or building within your timetable, but I think there are still ways around doing this- even an online notice board like Pinterest or create a private Facebook page for that particular group to join, for imagery of people's work, ideas, updates on certain things and a general no-pressure communicative environment where the teacher and students can share material.
I believe this is an important area to focus upon as a teacher, to help make students feel at ease, inspired, and motivated to attend classes and participate. With a little creativity, I think it can be overcome almost anywhere.
I'm replying to this thread with a question, rather than an answer....
How would you suggest applying this idea to other classrooms that are centred around other subjects?
I love the idea of putting work up on the wall, displaying student effort and greating a more colourful environment full of praise. BUT - in the music department, it's a different matter. I'm all for being proud of my student's works but i don't think it would brighten up my classroom by pasting a 10 page music compostion on the wall.
What would you suggest for someone in my situation?
Oooh yea good point. Well, actually something my art students find to be inspirational is music, we have background music on in the studios and workshops, sometimes its just the radio, and individual students also bring their own music to listen to with headphones. This creates a more relaxed learning environment too.
So I'd say it doesn't need to be a 10 page music composition on the wall, but whatever it is that inspires your students. It could be art, photographs of scenes or people, anything that interests them. You could use a wall in your classroom as a Pinterest wall?- don't know if you have seen this site? If not, check it out as it may give a few more ideas. I see music like art and I try to encourage learners to use all of their senses to create.
I see it is more difficult when it comes to student's work. Is there a way to put compositions etc into a program that only your group can view? This could be a way for your students to share and be proud of their work. They could all chose a photograph of themselves playing their instrument(s) to pin up on the board too?
Thank you and I hope this helps.
I think it depends on the set up. I teach PE in a sixth form, as all the classrooms we use are also used by other departments no one has ownership of a particular area, therefore cannot make the rooms more exciting and the notice boards provided are left empty barring a newsletter from about 3 years ago, neither the teacher or student feels any sense of ownership of this room.
However I think back to my college days, I did a GNVQ in business studies, I was permanently in one room and no other class used that room. We were allowed to turn that room into a mock office situation with telephones, our own computer, notice boards and tables set out in a meeting style. This, i remember, was fun and engaging and instantly gave us a sense of ownership and respect for that room and we were able to get a feeling of what it would be like to work in a real business environment.
Hope this helps.
Yes I like the sound of your GNVQ Business Studies room, wow yes I bet it was so exciting moving the equipment around to suit individuals and purpose. I can see this sticks out to you in your mind- did it motivate you to attend the sessions and participate?
Difficult in PE, especially if you move around the building a fair bit. What about changing rooms? There must be a physical aspect to the sessions as well as theory. Could you use a space in changing rooms for students as well as yourself to display learners achievements, updates, inspirational pieces and current news events? I know what you mean about empty notice boards, my old nursing course was like that. It would have only taken each member of staff 5 minutes to think of an interesting article to print off, pin up an interesting newspaper cutting, recommend a good book, etc etc. But it was bare, apart from the time of the year when the dreaded results were pinned up for all to see. So it actually became a place with a negative association instead of inspiration.
I've talked about using Pinterest and Facebook in a similar way, in the comments made above. Do you see these providing any benefit in your situation?
Yes the business studies room did motivate us to attend and it was a nice atmosphere to work in.
I agree, using spaces such as the changing rooms, the gym etc etc would be a good alternative, however as they are public areas they would need to be monitored constantly and would quickly become scruffy.
I like the idea of this pinterest wall within a classroom, in my area using things like newspaper clippings or internet pages to create a kind of collage and discussion would be very interesting.
At high school we used to have a gallery of everyones work when entering the art block, i feel this gave inspiration to many people, it would make me feel proud to know that my work that i spent hours on was being displayed.
However my area is music and i agree with Gina about having a composition displayed on the wall, that wouldnt be very appealing and i doubt many people would be very interested as they wouldnt know the song.
Although the rooms do need to be brightened up within FE music classrooms, they look too formal however its about keeping the balance of the room looking professional and not a high school classroom with musical values on the wall which is very basic for this level.
Hi Melissa, ok have a look over what I have written back to Gina, also I know it may be a big ask but does the college have videos of current and/or past students playing in an orchestra, solo or singing? If a screen is available these videos could be played at certain intervals to display students efforts and achievements.
I agree that professionalism needs to be maintained within college and universities and that the correct balance is important. Looking back, my high school music classroom looked professional but bare and bland too. Yes I agree, we are not working in high schools and we need to stay level appropriate when solving this issue. I think at this point you could get the students involved with a little negotiation from yourself to maintain the professionalism.
What do you think?