The new learning environment

Today we are living in a time that is different from the past when we were students. The way we were taught and the approach that we learned is also changing significantly. The learning environments of today require a new approach to meet the need of the 21st-century because today’s students are not the same as the past.

As teachers, we all need to reflect on our belief about teaching and learning. In other words, how we want to teach and how we want to learn. As teachers, we are transferring our knowledge and helping our students to learn but by interact with students during classroom, we are learning too. To do our job effectively, we need to learn and adjust the way we teach by learning new roles, new techniques to meet the requirements of this new learning environment.

As teachers, we are responsible for developing a learning environment that allows students to feel comfortable to express their views, share experiences, and discuss differences of opinion. But students are responsible for their own learning because the “real learning” happens when they take responsibility to determine WHAT to learn, HOW to learn and DISCOVER how this knowledge can benefit them as they are learning.

As teachers, we must facilitate the learning effectively by integrating students’ experiences into class discussions and use a lot of examples to illustrate the class materials. To do that, we need to spend extra time to prepare the materials, know the material well and organized them in a logical manner and emphasize important concepts several times to ensure students understand the materials.

The notion that teachers are “Knowledge givers” by giving lectures is obsolete. Today, teachers must be prepared to adopt multiple roles in the classroom such as a teacher, facilitator, coach, consultant, counselor, and mentor. Of course,

The teacher is someone who gives the knowledge. But as facilitators, we also help students to discover thing s in the learning process by asking questions, challenging them to discuss, share information with others and correct their mistakes. As instructors, we demonstrate certain skills by giving examples, show them additional information such as a short film on YouTube or an interesting article from newspapers or blogs to broaden their knowledge. As coaches, we guide them to learn by motivating and encouraging them to go beyond the theories or principles so they learn at much deeper levels. As consultants, we help them to solve certain learning problems by additional tutorials or special training. As Counselors, we help them to build certain characters for the real-life situation and personal ethics. As mentors, we guide them on their career direction and professional growth.

In order to establish a successful learning environment, the teachers who act as the facilitators must know how to facilitate the learning process by knowing what the students are discussing and how they work together. It requires the teachers to understand the class material well enough so that they do not need to use notes or textbooks but naturally listening and asking challenging questions to encourage more learning. By listening and monitoring, the teachers know when and how to intervene in the discussion.

In the past, the teachers are the “authority” and obedient is the rule. Today, the teachers are NOT the authority but someone who support the students to learn. We need to be honest as it helps to establish a collaborative atmosphere in the classroom. Contrary to the old notion that teachers should know everything, today teachers DO NOT need to know everything and willing to say: “I do not know something.” For example, not long ago, a student posed a mathematics problem that I tried but could not solve it. As the class was watching attentively, I admitted: “I do not know how to solve it, maybe someone may want to try.” A few students gave suggestions but one stood up and went to the board and solved it. As the class was cheering, I also laughed: “Now we know who is the real math genius in this class.”


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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