Interpersonal skills and designing safe learning environments

The field of neuroscience offers incredible evidence about how the brain processes information. According to this evidence, emotions dictate how and where information is stored. In the video below, Judy Willis, a neuroscientist and K-8 educator discusses how the brain reacts to stressful situations. These stressful situations trigger a fight or flight response that inhibits learning within the classroom. Within the classroom setting, these responses and behaviors may be labeled as “boredom, ” “acting out,” “hyperactive,” “unfocused,” or “disruptive.”

If learning communities are to exist, whether in the classroom, or any organizational setting, then members within the learning community must develop norms, and healthy interactions with one another that limit stress.

Digital tools can cultivate these safe environments through online interactions among peers and informal feedback from mentors and teachers. Inquiry based projects help develop shared goals among members in the classroom community that can nurture and fuel curiosity that supports learning and development.

Fostering a community of learners (FCL) is a type of classroom learning model that was originally developed by Ann Brown and Joe Campione. This model advocates for the design of classrooms where mistakes are learning opportunities, where every member feels welcome to participate and take risks. Once this culture is established, then members can collectively and individually interact with new knowledge within each individual’s zone of proximal development (ZPD).

Using artifacts from a person’s cultural world can build connections and trust. This is why designing interactions for youth to engage with texts and information that is familiar to them, using popular culture and participation genres that exist within video games and social media sites are so powerful because these tools allow learners to interact in a shared space with their peers around common goals, discuss topics, make mistakes, and get feedback from the environment. Video games, social media spaces, blogs, discussion boards and other Web 2.0 technologies can also be integrated into the learning environment to create a safe environment, foster a community of learners and spark curiosity and imagination.

See articles written by: Pinkard and Austin, 2010; Richards and Gomez, 2010Zywica, Richards and Gomez, 2010)

For more on how a community of learners with technology looks in the classroom (McGrath, 2003)

FCL and Technology

For more on the research and theory guiding the FCL framework

Brown Advancement of Learning


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