Fostering a Learning Environment
How do we cultivate an environment of learning? An environment that is conducive to learning must support respectful expression of ideas and opinions without threat to physical, emotional or psychological well being. It is important that both students and instructors enter the classroom with an awareness of their mutual responsibility for contributing to the learning experience of everyone there. If the classroom is to be a space for learning, sharing and development of ideas and perspectives, it cannot reinforce systems of bias and domination. This faculty will not tolerate discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disabilities/special needs, marital or family status, creed, colour, ethnic origin or other identity differences. No student or instructor should be made to feel threatened, or marginalized, within class participation. Both instructors and students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that demonstrates commitment to maintaining a classroom environment that is conducive to learning.
Our expectations for respectful engagement with differences among students/instructors, extends to an expectation of respectful engagement with different opinions and perspectives. We have a social and professional responsibility to treat one another with respect. We must respect others' views even if we do not agree with their viewpoints. It must be recognized that having core values challenged, even respectfully, may be an unsettling experience, but risk-taking is an inevitable and essential aspect of learning. Therefore, we must challenge the ideas people present, rather than the person who presents the ideas. Mutual respect and consideration for each other and our ideas is essential to fostering a learning environment. We must all take responsibility for ensuring that respect for one another exists within the Faculty of Social Work.
Guidelines for Cultivating a Positive Learning EnvironmentAt the beginning of each course, the class should address issues related to developing a positive learning environment, including a review of these guidelines with all students to determine whether these are acceptable or should be modified for the particular class.
- Students will not be judged on the basis of their personal beliefs and valued orientations. Evaluation of class participation will be based on contribution, general involvement and/or attendance.
- The power differential between instructor and student should be recognized, including an acknowledgement that the instructor may be challenged and questioned.
- It is expected that everyone will be accepting of differing perspectives and view the discussions as a learning experience.
- Language is a significant issue. The use of words, phrases could be explored including their meaning to persons within the class.
- The class should explore particular cultural or diversity groups without stereotyping group members. It should also explore how members of the class who reflect various diversities can participate without becoming spokespersons for these diversities.
- Instructors should check in on a regular basis with the class regarding the learning environment.