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3 Posts tagged with the learning_environments tag

Surveys done by the OECD find that teachers around the world are losing significant teaching time due to discipline problems. The UK is giving teachers more freedom to use force to ensure good behaviour, but is this the answer?


In many countries, the proverbial paper airplane has been replaced by more ominous student disruption including physical violence, drugs, and verbal abuse. According to the OECD’s Teacher and Learning International Survey (TALIS), a survey of teachers in more than 20 countries, one in four teachers loses at least 30% of lesson time to disruptive student behavior or administrative tasks. More than 2 teachers in five in Iceland, Norway, Portugal and Spain agreed that a significant amount of time was lost because of students interrupting lessons.  Nearly half of teachers in Malta and Hungary, and two in five teachers in Belgium are in schools whose principal reports that intimidation or verbal abuse of other students hindered learning. In Mexico, this number was more than 60%.


With all of the education time lost due to lack of discipline in the classroom, policymakers should take note. The issue of discipline is a serious one. Even with the newest technology, the highest quality curriculum, and the best infrastructure, student outcomes will not be improved if students are spending their time waiting for the classroom to be managed.


Britain recently announced a change in legislation that will give teachers more freedom to discipline students, including force if necessary. The government wants teachers to “feel confident in exercising their authority.” With the new legislation, teachers will have more power to search students and fewer restrictions on the use of force.


While it might be easier to address the immediate problem by giving teachers more tools to ensure good behavior, it is much harder to change the root of the problem: misbehaving students. Even the most well-funded schools will still have disruptive students (anyone who has seen an episode of Gossip Girl can attest), but many persistent discipline problems are due to lack of teacher training or too many students in classes. Findings from TALIS indicate that student discipline and behaviour problems are among the top three areas for which teachers identify a high level of need for professional development. TALIS results also indicate that smaller class sizes are associated with better classroom disciplinary climate in most countries. But with many education systems increasing class size and reducing resources towards professional development in the wake of the economic crisis, how do teachers deal with the discipline problem?


Tell us what you think: Will more severe disciplinary measures, including force, improve student behavior and help teachers better manage their classrooms?


Read more about the TALIS survey results.


Give peace a chance!

Posted by Lynda HAWE Jun 18, 2010

It was good to see that the Vision of Humanity 2010 rankings are out!


This year 149 nations of the world have been ranked by their peacefulness and the results have stimulated some very interesting analysis. Discover the thermal maps, and download the Results Report and the Discussion Paper


There are the 23 indicators that make up the Global Peace Index. Countries are scored on these indicators on a range from 1 to 5 where 1 = most peaceful. As well as the related indicators against which the Global Peace Index has been tested, in an attempt to identify the 'drivers' of peace.  They include levels of democracy, transparency and education.

Today the problems we are facing are global in nature. They include climate change, ever decreasing biodiversity, full use of the fresh water on the planet and underpinning all these – overpopulation.  Without peace we will be unable to achieve the levels of cooperation, inclusiveness and social equity required to begin solving these challenges, let alone empower the international institutions needed to regulate them. 


Martin Luther King Jr. emphasised that a critical intellect requires moral development.  “Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.” Martin Luther King Jr. The Purpose of Education Morehouse College, 1948


Which is why indicators on Education, such as shown here,  are so important for us to understand, compare and share.


Education spending
Primary school enrolment
Secondary school enrolment
Higher education enrolment
Mean years of schooling
Adult literacy rate

Educating for critical thinking and democracy would include questioning policy that deprives or denies any individual or group of any of their fundamental human rights.  A positive learning environment is in a safe and peaceful environment where individuals feel accepted and respected and where learning is the main focus. 


Give Peace A Chance!


That children are influenced by their physical environment should be no surprise. It can have a significant effect on the way that they perceive the world as well as their behaviour. Whether we realise it or not we all consciously or sub-consciously react to the physical environment around us. Put a small table in the middle of a large, and otherwise empty, room and people will congregate near it. Provide a very small cosy space, tucked away to the side of a room and young children will gather in it.

For early childhood care the role of the physical environment, both inside and outside, is to support the activities and needs of the users. This demands a deep understanding of what makes an effective place for children, but also the adults too. Children need a safe and secure environment, but one that allows them to interact, and perhaps allows them some independence. To this extent such environments need to be challenging.

As children explore their environments using all their senses, the attention to light, colour, acoustics, touch and feed of materials as well as smell are clearly critical. Whilst the types of space provided are important such as activity areas, baby changing spaces, storage and so on are important, as well as the amount of area dedicated to each and on what basis that calculation is made, there are also some more general principles that are worth attention too.

This list and the examples given are not exclusive, but they do provide a flavour of what the research is suggesting.

Location. For example whether the pre-school or daycare centre is close to or connected with a primary school which may allow for the delivery of integrated services such as child health care or support for families, easy access for parents with children in both school and daycare, or as some experts argue a gradual introduction and familiarisation with school routines for younger children.

Accessibility. Not only should the entrance be easily identifiable, but critically they should be designed to enable parents with other small children and with buggies to quickly and easily get into the building. Often this does not happen.

Scale. Whilst acknowledging that adults use these buildings too, they are for children which means that the size and in particular the height of objects is important. Not only does this apply to the furniture but critically to those elements that are fixed, for example window cills that are low enough to allow views out, reception desks part of which are lowered to enable a child to see over, a sink that is low enough for a child to use but high enough to discourage them to climb in easily.

Visibility. It is important to enable children to see what is going on around them so that they feel connected but independent. It offers a sense of security that they know that there is an adult there. It is also important that they have the sense of being able to move easily between different activities and have a clear view of where they can go and how to get there.

Remember too that these places are work environments for adults. There has been much concern about how to reduce the stress on teachers and carers in their work environment. Often, managing the buildings better is one part of the solution. Essentially the buildings have to be easy and intuitive to use, they must enable the teachers and carers to carry out their work with as little stress placed on them by the environment as possible. Often it is the simple things that get in the way such as windows that are hard to open, sinks that are in the wrong place, and not enough storage, or a degrading building because it is difficult to maintain.



Find out more on the OECD's Centre for Effective Learning Environments (CELE) website