What Makes an Outstanding Learning Environment?

By That's, October 31, 2019

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By Emma Button, Consultant Wellington College Shanghai and Wellington College China

In early years education, the term ‘learning environment’ is one that extends far beyond the classroom. Practitioners are well schooled in the belief that no outstanding classroom is restricted to having four walls. We are acutely aware that learning and knowledge are acquired and consolidated by engaging in wider, freer and more open environments.

We often talk about an enabling environment in early years which ensures that children grow up to be resilient, capable and confident. We can split such an environment into three equally important areas.

The Emotional Environment

The atmosphere of a setting. A good emotional environment will help pupils create more positive relationships with staff and other children.

The Indoor Environment

The resources available in the indoor space, how they are accessed and how activities are led. The indoor environment of a setting should make children feel safe and secure and give them the opportunity to become confident learners.

The Outdoor Environment

The resources available in the outdoor space, how they are accessed and how activities are led. Outdoor environments give opportunities to experience and enhance many different skills with a greater sense of freedom and independence than those experienced indoors. 

What Makes an Outstanding Learning Environment?
Image by Wellington College International Shanghai

At Wellington, we have realised an ambition held since our opening in 2014: to move to a purpose-built setting that allows us to create a truly unique and bespoke learning environment. In August 2019, this became a reality with the opening of the Wellington College International Shanghai Early Years Centre, a learning environment which reflects our values and ethos. Indeed, the core of how the environment will enable children is embodied within our Wellington Identities.

Independent 

Our learning environment promotes children’s ability to make decisions on their own. Children have the opportunity to decide how, where and with whom they learn. Teachers provide clear organisation and routines that will give children a real sense of control over their day. 

Inspired

Along with familiar resources and objects, new activities and experiences are offered. These inspire our young learners to look beyond the classroom and try to engage with new skills in different areas and numerous ways.

Inclusive

We want an environment that is welcoming and warm while facilitating a sense of belonging and the development of supporting relationships. 

Individual

In our new high-quality environment we are responsive to the learning needs and styles of all children. Knowing what our children like and need underpins the development of skills that empower children with a sense that they can progress and achieve. 

Intellectual

We will continue our use of the Characteristics of Effective Learning. These show us how a child learns rather than what they learn. We understand the importance of valuing the process rather than the result. We have spaces that support the development of the intellectual skills of critical and creative thinking, problem-solving, exploring and finding out, being willing to ‘have a go’ and the overall motivation to learn.

Wellington College Shanghai
Image by Wellington College International Shanghai

It is Wellington’s enduring desire to give pupils a foundation of learning that cannot be found anywhere else. With the development of the our early years centre, this is a reality we can embrace with confidence.

To find out more about Early Years at Wellington College International Shanghai, please book one of our regular tours by registering via the following QR code:

What Makes an Outstanding Learning Environment?


Cover image by Wellington College International Shanghai

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