26 October 2014

Effective learning can only really take place in a ‘powerful learning environment’. 

EFFECTIVE LEARNING = giving a learner the knowledge to gain proficiency in one or more skills.

Effective learning takes place when:

  1. Learners are given opportunities to use skills that they already have to improve their knowledge and learn more skills;
  2. Learners are given opportunities to search for information;
  3. Learners are given opportunities to manage and monitor their own progress e.g. via self-assessment
  4. Learners know and understand the goal towards which they are working;
  5. Learners are given opportunities to work with others in groups or teams;
  6. Learners are taught according to their own unique learning styles.

The Didactic Contract[1]

This contract refers to the three most important components of learning: the teacher, the learners, and the lesson content.

It further takes into account:

  • the teacher’s willingness and capability to cater for the different needs of her learners;
  • the teacher’s willingness and capability to provide an effective learning environment;
  • the learners’ needs and expectations of the teacher.

An example of an effective learning environment could be where a teacher structures a lesson which involves the learners working in groups on a problem which they have chosen. Prior to starting on this task, the learners have acquired the necessary skills and have the tools with which to complete it. Although the teacher knows the answer or solution to the problem, she does not divulge it, rather waiting for the learners to ‘discover’ it. This type of learning could be called discovery learning.

Characteristics of powerful learning environments[2]



  1. When learners are engaged in the learning process, they become more motivated to learn which results in a better form of classroom management being practiced, which in turn leads to effective learning taking place.
  2. When learners are empowered to think for themselves, it does not in any way diminish the teacher’s authority in the classroom.

Structuring a positive learning environment

A positive learning environment leads to a powerful learning environment. This positive learning environment can be achieved for learners who:

  • work towards set goals;
  • are challenged by projects which are interesting and require a problem-solving approach;
  • are encouraged to form relationships with one another and their teacher;
  • believe in their own abilities to reach their goals and achieve positive outcomes;
  • know that their teacher cares about them;
  • receive constructive feed-back from their teacher;
  • receive appropriate praise from their teacher which motivates to work even harder;
  • feel that their classroom is a warm and inviting place for them to learn in;
  • have a teacher who applies different teaching strategies and media to accommodate their differing learning styles;
  • are actively engaged in the learning process e.g. actually doing experiments instead of just reading about them;
  • are given opportunities to develop their own understanding by taking responsibility for their own learning;
  • are given activities that will develop their self-discipline.


Effective learning is determined by the learners’ active engagement during the lesson. The learning environment should be warm, creative, encouraging, caring and fair. Teachers should facilitate or guide their learners with the acquisition of knowledge, giving them scope to analyse and interpret it for themselves.

.   du Toit,ER. (2009). Powerful Learning Environment, Macmillan, Northlands

If you would like to read more about creating a powerful learning environment or to preview the book online, please click on this link:




[1] du Toit,ER. (2009). Powerful Learning Environment, Macmillan, Northlands

[2] du Toit,ER. (2009).

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