17 March, 2009

Managing and Maintaining Learning Culture and Environment among Teachers at Schools and Colleges

By C. Radhakrishnan

One of the prime roles of education leaders at schools and colleges for assuring quality service is managing and maintaining self learning culture and environment among teachers. Once this is achieved, naturally students will emulate the teachers and it will be very easy for developing learning culture among the students.

Learning Culture:

Let’s understand first what is learning culture? Learning culture is referred to as an environment in which opportunities for learning are openly valued and supported and are built, where possible, into all activities. The various strategies that help in developing an excellent learning culture among the faculty are:
1. Find out your own learning needs and update yourself to be a ‘leader role model’ for teachers under you.
2. Encourage teachers to identify their own learning needs.
3. Provide a regular review of performance and learning for teachers.
4. Encourage teachers to set challenging learning goals for themselves.
5. Encourage teachers to join new courses to upgrade their qualification.
6. Provide feedback on both performance and achieved learning.
7. Review the performance of department heads and senior teachers in helping to develop junior faculty.
8. Assist the teachers to find learning opportunities on the job.
9. Provide new experiences from which teachers can learn.
10. Encourage teachers to visit reputed institutions and observe their teaching-learning process.
11. Facilitate in-service orientation training programmes on teaching to update, adapt and sharpen their skills.
12. Tolerate some mistakes, provided teachers try to learn from them.
13. Encourage teachers to review, conclude, and plan learning activities.
14. Encourage teachers to challenge the traditional way of teaching.
15. Encourage teachers to take part in regional, national and international level seminars and competitions.
16. Finally, develop a proper system of performance assessment and reward suitably the deserving ones.

Learning Environment:
The learning environment includes, but is not limited to, academic buildings, residence halls, sports facilities, the campus environment, and the co curricular activities and events.
A positive environment in which teachers learn is influenced by a number of factors. Look at the diagram given below.

(Source: Mumford, Alan, ‘Effective Learning’ - Range of Influence on a Learner, Page 54.)

Let’s see what role education leaders at schools and colleges play in creating an excellent learning environment. Some of their roles are:

1. Role Model:
Leaders need to be role models by explicitly demonstrating their behaviour and actions that they are enthusiastic learners/developers themselves.
2. Facilitator: Leaders need to be conscious and generous providers of learning/development opportunities for other people and active supporters/encouragers whenever those opportunities are taken up.
3. System: You as a leader need to build learning into the system so that it is integrated with day to day work processes and is firmly on the conscious agenda.
4. Champion: As a leader you need to champion the importance of learning in other parts of the organisation and the organisation as a whole.

To bring in sustainable quality in our educational services it is the duty of each and every educator to see that we are updating, adapting and changing according to the pace of the modern technological era in the 21st century. When we talk about quality we should always visualise a world after ten or fifteen years and we should put sincere efforts to educate the children under our care according to their needs not for today’s world but for the future world. I firmly believe that it is high time for all educators and policy makers to come together and reach a consensus on how a better critical thinking learning culture and environment can be developed and sustained in our educational institutions among teachers and students. If we ignore this issue today the future generation is going to suffer and they won’t pardon us. So let’s take it as a challenge to redefine our educational process and commit ourselves for creating an enjoyable and fun oriented educational system based on critical thinking.

Print & Online References:
1. Munford, Alan (2000); “Effective Learning”; Universities Press, Hyderabad - High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.

2. Beard, Colin & Wilson, P John (2007); “Experiential Learning”; Kogan Page India, New Delhi - High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.

3. Honey, Peter & Munford, Alan (1995); ‘Managing your Learning Environment’; Honey – High Range School Library, TTL, Mattupatti.

4. www.teach-nology.com/glossary/terms/l/

5. edc.appstate.edu/equity/issues/definition_of_terms.html