Is your college an understanding environment to learn in?

Learning in an understanding environment can be one of the most rewarding experiences out there especially for an adult learner.  The hardest part about any environment is that it is heavily influenced by the students around you and your professor.  This can make learning in an understanding environment incredibly difficult if those around you are not very understanding or are stubborn and opinionated.  Don’t get me wrong, it can be a very good thing to hear other people’s opinions and learn from their experiences but having fellow students who make it challenging for views other than theirs to be expressed or articulated can be very damaging to the classroom environment.

For these reasons, it is important to find ways in which you can influence and foster an understanding environment not just for you to learn in, but for the rest of the students as well.  Bare in mind that some of the younger “college aged” students have never needed to interact in a “real world” environment where understanding or at least cooperate with one another.  These students may not have the experience you have with working with people you disagree with just because they have spent most of their academic time trying to figure out what they believe and have not had much experience with a diversity of opinion.  This is why it can be frustrating sometimes as an adult learner to be around students with very little experience and very many stubborn opinions.  Do not be discouraged by this but try and create an understanding environment.

Techniques

Even though you cannot control how people respond and interact, you can influence those things.  One of the best things to do to create an understanding learning environment is to ask clarifying questions to people who are very opinionated.  For example, a fellow student raises his or her hand and expresses a very passionate opinion about a topic that disagrees with a statement or response made by another student.  This can greatly detracted from the learning environment and make people less inclined to speak up.  A way to get through this is by asking the opinionated student clarifying questions like “could you elaborate on the first point you made a little further?”  by doing this you will make the student really examine his or her own position more in-depth than they may have previously done as well as indicate to other students that there is an interest in what this person has to say so there is an interest in what other students have to say.

Another piece of advice is to never raise your voice or appear aggressive even if you think the student you are questioning is of lesser intelligence.  The point of doing this is to lead by example.  If you treat the students in an understanding way and attempting gain as much information from them as you can, they may follow suit.  By acting in an understanding way and giving students a chance to speak their minds and make them clarify their points, you are creating the environment you are looking for.

Making a Good Situation Better

In the case where you find yourself in an understanding environment, you can still add to it by applying some of the above techniques.  Keep encouraging other students to question themselves and others and the best way to do that is by keeping a high level of dialog between students in and outside of class.  Make sure you really examine ideas that you disagree with so you know why and can articulate a strong and rational argument against the position without offending students personally.

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