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How to Create a Culture for Learning

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

What is a culture of learning? And how do you develop one in your own classroom? Learn what such a classroom tends to look like, and a few of the things you might do to achieve it.

What is a Culture for Learning?

The goal of teaching is to impart knowledge and skills - it's an amazing gift that we should all have the opportunity to receive. But it only takes you so far. If, on the other hand, you're able to give your students a love of learning and the tools necessary to learn more themselves, that's a gift that keeps on giving. It's like teaching a man to fish - far more useful than a single fish will ever be. But how do you do that?

A big part of it is learning to develop a culture for learning. If we can create classroom communities that contain this culture, our students will be highly successful. A culture for learning is any classroom culture where the atmosphere encourages learning and gives students ownership over the process. A culture for learning isn't a classroom where students simply listen to the teacher and do their work. A true culture for learning is one where students are in charge of their own learning, and actively push and motivate themselves and their classmates.

In this lesson, we are going to discuss how to create such a culture, and what it looks like.

What does a Culture for Learning Look Like?

There is no single formula or picture of what a culture for learning looks like, but there are a few features that are quite common. In such a classroom, students and teachers tend to interact in constructive, collegiate ways - it is more of a collaboration rather than the teacher simply being in charge. In such a classroom, hard work and perseverance are valued and rewarded by teachers and fellow students. In such a classroom, students choose to learn because they understand the value in what they are learning. And in such a classroom, students work together and help each other achieve their learning goals. You might see students collaborating on projects, helping each other through problems, researching topics online, and checking their progress with a teacher. A culture for learning helps students approach education in a mature and active way.

A culture of learning leads to students teaching themselves and each other
culture of learning

Creating a Culture for Learning

It's difficult to explain how to create a culture for learning. Much of it is a matter of tone, and the way you express yourself to your students - it isn't just a list of tangible steps. But there are certain things that can help.

Emphasizing work and activities that give students ownership over their learning is vital. This might involve group based problem-solving, class discussions that are led by students, research projects, and assessments where students choose when they're ready to complete them. You might set up a class in such a way that the class itself is more of a workshop for getting help and support, rather than a place to lecture and insert knowledge into students.

But beyond actual systems that give students ownership, it's also about the things you say to students and the way you say them. It's vital to make it clear to students why what they're learning is important - they need to feel that they will get something out of it. Ideally this should be more than a good grade. Being able to inspire your students to care about their learning is the most challenging part of creating such a culture for learning, and is really a matter of practice.

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