It’s a new story, all over again. You are starting on a learning journey with your students, trainees,and co-workers. As you prepare to interact with a group for the first time in a course that lasts a number of days, weeks or months, it is well worth taking some time to establish a safe learning space with all members.
Each learner has the same value and worth as any other in the group, including the teacher/facilitator. In the democratic classroom, cooperation is based on respect for the rights and interests of others while standing up for one’s own rights.
A group can run democratically when common rules and limits are identified and known to all. Mutual respect – respect for the dignity of others implies treating each member with respect, while complying with the framework of rules and limits that shape and ‘protect’ the group interactions.
Each member, child or adult, ought to develop a sense of belonging to the whole group and feel safe in it, in order to develop full potential for learning. See the many works on the effect of emotions and hormones on learning that demonstrate how ‘good’ hormones open us to communication and learning when others close us. For example, fear, stress and distrust release cortisol, domination floods the brain with dopamine and adrenaline while a sense of connection and love produces oxytocin.
It seems simple… but the devil will always lurk in the details and the realisation. For example, handing students a pre-made set of rules is not conducive to the creation of a safe learning space and democratic ethos. You have to work on and negotiate those rules together Another example could be that accepting and acknowledging individuals’ ideas and contributions is as necessary as learning to respectfully reject any irrelevant or unhelpful contributions without rejecting the person. Depersonalising conflicts is of the essence.
There are many ways to engage in this journey towards the creation of a safe space. This article’s focus is on establishing ‘a contract’ in a class/team/group. An important part of this is to explore and identify common rules of living and learning together. We suggest activities that might help you reach these goals.
Developing Awareness of the Need for Rules by Experiencing the Challenge of Inequality
In the spirit of learning by doing, starting with an experience is a good idea. For example this game can help the group experience challenge and reflect on what rules are needed for the group to thrive in a safe learning environment.
Creating a Safe Learning Space with Learners
[/fusion_toggle][fusion_toggle title=”Activity 3: The Contract” open=”no”]
Establishing Rules for a Safe Learning Space
You might wish to go over the contract/rules more than once, for example after a long break, and when a new member joins the class/group. At any time, items of the list can be modified, removed or added as long as the group consents to it.
Punishment or exclusion are not logical consequences for not following rules. Punishment and exclusion do not help us learn anything new. You might prefer to guide the discussion in a more positive direction. For example, creating a pleasant space (perhaps near the trees created in the session?) for a ‘time out’, when disruptions occur, provides the possibility for the person who doesn’t follow the rules to reflect on their behavior without being excluded. Pairing students for peer support in case of issues with rules is also a more positive approach.
Carving out time for the creation of a safe learning space is worth the effort . The learners will be engaged with the rules they want, not the ones imposed on them. Then, teachers/facilitators avoid difficulties in class/group management and the ‘dark sarcasm’* that often goes with it.
Everyone will save time in the end because there will be much less need for discipline management in the long run. More attention and energy will be saved for learning.
Resources abound on the internet. Here are some links that you may find useful and inspiring.
We have just selected a few that are tried and tested. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with the activities you choose – they should be interesting and equally appealing to you and your group.
By becoming a member you will benefit in many ways:
In this article we answer some questions regarding the decision to transform Learn to Change from an association to a collective.
In this article, we talk about what we mean by Collective – the new form chosen by L2C – and how you can join it.
Learn to Change’s members held a General Assembly in fall 2022, in which the decision was taken to transform the association into a less formal, and more agile entity. Therefore, we will change status, going from an ‘organization’ to a less formal entity that we name “The collective”
If you feel you are committed to the vision and mission of the association, then your place is here.
We are sure that becoming a member will benefit you in many ways. Read the product description for more details or click sign up now.