How Environment Affects Learning

Olivia Longmore, Staff Reporter

Distraction is probably the one thing that holds everybody back from being fully engaged in an activity. Distraction can come in a multitude of forms: problems at home, difficulty of the subject, and even something as simple as uncomfortable clothing. Distraction can be very detrimental to the task at hand. In fact, distraction is one of the main roadblocks that schools must overcome to motivate student learning.

Students learn in different ways, both in and out of the school facility. In “The Psychology of How People Learn”, they discuss the three main types of learning. The first is learning through association in which people start to predict the outcomes of an action. In other words, it is when a common stimulus is conditioned to pair with an action. For example, teaching toddlers how to use the toilet, eventually, they understand that when they have a certain feeling they need to use the restroom. The second type of learning is through observation. One of the best ways to find out what to do in a new scenario is to simply watch the actions of those around. The final type of learning is operant conditioning. This simply means that a person is conditioned to act a certain way based on the positive or negative results that has happened in the past. It will then either “increase or decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again.” Those types of learning are dependent on the surrounding environment, whether it be positive, negative, or distracting.

The psychological effects of the environment can change how well students learn. The reason is that students brains are more susceptible to change as it continues to develop, which may result in drastic reactions. For example, Julie Adams writes in her “Environmental Factors” article that, “Most students can only do two things when stressed, act out or zone out.” Stress can manifest itself by the simple fact that the chair a student is sitting on is too cold and uncomfortable to focus. This results in the student’s distraction, which to their stress when they don’t understand a topic. That is why it is essential that the faculty make it their mission to ensure that students are comfortable in their learning environment by both making rooms cozy and their attitudes bright. The more comfortable the students results in the likelihood that they will listen.

Yes, having the most comfortable classroom and bright personality does not guarantee that students won’t be distracted. However, there is one simple way to combat this: laughter. Laughing is one of the best ways to engage students while increasing the likelihood that they will continue to listen. As the education consumers foundation describes in their “Home Environment” article, the brain releases four different types of hormones that increase memory, engagement, and concentration. These chemicals also fight the ‘stress and anxiety hormones’ by relaxing the tension held within the muscles throughout the body.

While distraction will never be completely eliminated within schools, keeping a friendly, cozy atmosphere is one way to start.