Are you a new college instructor? Are you looking for tips to ensure you have the proper tools to help your students become successful? Do you have feelings of doubt, and the possible fear that your students may sense your fear? The thoughts you have are perfectly normal.

As an instructor, you should assess your students to determine their unique qualities and characteristics. Then with these unique qualities and characteristics in mind, you should cultivate a positive learning environment to meet these needs.

It is also helpful to draw from your own experiences. Have you ever been a student in a classroom where you felt unmotivated, uninspired, or uninterested?

Students throwing paper airplanes in the classroom.

On the other hand, have you been a student in a class where you felt motivated, inspired and challenged to succeed and thrive?

GIF of middle-school students dancing with their principal

The truth is, your learning can be greatly impacted by your learning environment.

As an instructor, you're the most important component of your student's learning experience. Not only will you have the privilege of teaching new content, you'll also create a safe space and optimal learning environment for your students to thrive!

What is a Learning Environment?

Learning happens in a learning environment. You may be quite familiar with learning in a classroom and have by now had many learning experiences throughout your lifetime.

Formally, a learning environment is defined as "the diverse physical locations, contexts, and cultures in which students learn."

There are three types of learning environments:

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1. Physical

This learning environment "encompasses all aspects related to physical space" surrounding students that allows interactions between students and teachers.

Included in this environment are the design of the classroom, and how other aspects of the classroom (i.e. furniture, computers, posters) are physically arranged to influence learning.

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2. Psychological

This learning environment involves the interaction between teachers and their students, including teacher expectations, standards, and how teachers interact with their students (i.e. fostering an inclusive approach).

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3. Emotional

This learning environment gives students need for self-expression and the freedom to express their emotions. At best, teachers should help support their students' needs and feelings, which can help set up students for success.

Components of a Learning Environment

You now know that learning can happen anywhere and in any kind of situation. Wherever you are, as long as you have a student and a teacher, you can classify this as a learning environment. The learning environment is almost as important as the course content.

Here are five elements you need to focus on in the learning environment:

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1. Routines

Having a regular schedule of events in your classroom helps students to anticipate what comes next and builds trust.

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2. Furnishings

The furnishings in the classroom "'set the stage' for learning and provide a framework" for all that happens in the classroom.

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3. Spaces

Classrooms also can include "centers" which help extend the learning process and offer students opportunities to explore new ideas.

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4. Materials

Real-life items help students experience hands-on learning.

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5. Documentation

Methods that make learning visible and accessible include written materials, audio recordings, and activities that support the learning process and help build understanding.

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You're teaching a lesson on the special senses. What materials can you bring in to improve the learning environment? Select all that apply:

Building a Positive Learning Environment

The learning environment is just as important as course content and teaching methods. As an instructor, in addition to course content, it's important to keep students' perspectives in mind throughout your course.

In a positive learning environment, students:

  • "experience a high level of trust" between themselves and their instructor

  • "view decisions as fair"

  • "have a sense of belonging"

  • feel heard

A student telling a teacher,

Only in this environment are students able to tackle challenges, take risks, express themselves, and ask for help.

In a negative learning environment, students may feel:

  • uncomfortable

  • confused

  • unsupported

  • afraid to make mistakes

A college student tells her instructor,

In these environments, students are likely to judge the course or themselves negatively, become unmotivated, and possibly quit.


When should you focus on creating a positive learning environment in your classroom? Select all that apply:

Tips to Create a Positive Learning Environment

Creating a positive learning environment begins with you (the teacher). It's an ongoing activity that continues with the planning, development, and implementation of the curriculum.

To maintain a positive learning environment, you'll need to pay attention to what is happening in your class and adjust your strategy to meet your students' needs. Research shows that academic performance is likely to increase in a positive learning environment.

Below are 10 tips to create a positive learning environment in your classroom:

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1. Create a good vibe

As the instructor, you are one of the most important components of your students' learning experience. Enter the classroom with a smile, have a friendly, optimistic attitude, and make your students feel welcome. This sets the tone in your classroom and helps you be more approachable to your students.

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2. Build relationships

Get to know your students throughout the course. Knowing your students' personalities can help you relate better and can help you support them throughout your course when they have questions or need assistance. You can begin building these relationships on the first day of class with an "icebreaker".

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3. Encourage collaboration

Assign classroom word problems, group activities, and discussions that involve the whole class. Another opportunity for collaboration is for group projects where each group member makes a contribution. This helps to improve students' sense of belonging and helps to increase student engagement.

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4. Use clear communication

When talking to your students, speak clearly and at a reasonable pace. When your students have questions, give clear, concise answers. Always double-check that the written materials you provide don't have grammatical errors or misspelled words. This helps build credibility with your students.

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5. Create an inclusive environment

Create a safe space and inclusive environment for all of your students. Create a sense of unity and togetherness in your classroom. Do this by greeting and acknowledging students as they enter your classroom.

Maintain inclusivity in your classroom by incorporating your students' interests, experiences, and learning habits into your teaching strategy and planning.

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6. Set expectations early

Start the course with a syllabus with the course schedule, classroom etiquette and course expectations. Have a predictable order of events in each class period. This helps to build trust with students and helps them anticipate what is next.

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7. Allow time for students to ask questions

Reserve a few minutes at the end of your lecture for questions. Another good strategy is to set time aside for asking questions as a part of your class lecture. This is another way to increase student engagement and for students to learn what material is important.

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8. Use a variety of teaching methods

Don't limit your delivery of information to one method. To appeal to your students' different learning styles, incorporate multiple strategies to help your students learn. Try lectures, small group discussions, case studies, technology tools, videos, and games to name a few.

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9. Encourage your students

Learning can sometimes get difficult. Be sure to encourage your students when you see them working hard and grasping new concepts. This can help build confidence in your students and make them want to work harder.

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10. Enjoy what you're teaching

Your excitement and passion for the topic you're teaching can be contagious! Find ways to make learning difficult information fun and exciting. Your students will appreciate it and will often mirror your attitude.


What are other reasons creating a positive learning environment might be important? Select all that apply:

Take Action

Vice President Kamala Harris says,

Congratulations! You're now ready to create a positive learning environment in your college lecture. Enjoy your new journey as a college instructor!

Check out the additional resources below to help you on your journey as a college professor:


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