Safe learning environment

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Creating a safe and supportive school environment is also an important aspect of ensuring student wellbeing. The key elements in ensuring that a school environment is safe and supportive are safety, support, inclusion, challenge and engagement (Churchill et al., 2011).

Approaches and frameworks for creating such environments include constructivism, transformative pedagogy and activity theory.

Essential questions are those which create a space for students to explore big ideas, whilst developing a socially critical learning environment (Malone, 2011, pp. 290).

Freire’s theory of praxis is where reflection and action are applied to develop critical awareness. Application of this theory will help to construct environments that bell hooks refers to as transformative; spaces that foster the ‘sense that there is shared commitment and a common good that binds us’ (hooks, 1994).

Fraser (1994) believes that the act of learning occurs in both a physical and a psychosocial ‘learning environment’. These learning environments are ‘made up of complex interactions between entities, including technologies, within that environment’ (Newhouse, 2015).

The learning environment is composed of many interactions, of which technology is just one. Adding technology to a learning environment creates another interaction, but it will not necessarily improve learning. Therefore a teaching strategy that encompasses all of the interactions in a classroom must be applied.

These are spaces where many young people are forced to intermix closely in a social environment that is a strong influence on shaping gendered norms. Since industrialisation, this has resulted in the formation of peer cultures (in conjunction with teachers and parents) that amplify ‘restrictive understandings of masculinity, which position girls – as well as boys who are seen to be effeminate or are suspected of being gay – as the negative ‘other’’ (Vickers, 2013).