I have been thinking a lot about ways to establish safe learning environments for reflection and meaning making in online learning. Our choices around design is a part of this process. I have found it can be very helpful to invite learners at the beginning of a class to engage in co-creating collaborative learning principles, where everyone has a chance to share what is important to them in online and group learning: "How will we be together" in this learning experience. This approach sets the tone of collaboration and safety and helps build community.
How have others designed learning to a establish safe learning environment?
Excellent question Gayle - and a topic of great interest to me.
- Feeling safe requires trusting the group of people I am learning with
- Trusting the group requires knowing that my weakness on the subject matter will not be ridiculed by others
- Knowing that my weakness will not be ridiculed requires knowing that others also have weaknesses
- Knowing that others have weaknesses requires all of us revealing those (learning needs) to each other at the beginning of the course.
- All of us revealing our weaknesses at the beginning of the course helps to establish empathy and common (learning) objectives.
- Going through that process helps to draw a protective wall around us that (i) equates us as humble learners, and (ii) distinguishes us (as a 'community') from what is outside that wall
This idea is so important in my teaching practice. I teach EAP (Academic English for language learners) and it is crucial that students feel safe and confident enough to experiment and play with the language. In a f2f class, I spend a lot of time in the first few classes on creating that safe learning environment and establishing the crucial trust that there is no judgment and we are all there to learn. I have been teaching partially online (blended) course for years but as I prep for my fully online course, I have been musing about how to approach creating that same sense of community as quickly as possible.
Asif, I like your list of vulnerabilities and questions. I'm thinking about how to facilitate that discussion.
Thanks Lynette - students feel safe and confident enough to experiment and play sounds like my ideal learning environment :)
And that sounds like it would be a fascinating discussion to listen in on.
Just an FYI - I am officially going to steal this list ... you OK with that? This is such a perfect stream of consciousness that supports each step.
Thanks Patience - please use and improve :)
I keep looking for the 'like' button :) and a big Thank you emoji :)