Sharpening Your Teaching Skills: Anticipation and Preparation (#2)

Last time we considered the developmental needs of your students. While that kind of information is ?gold ? when it comes to anticipating needs, sometimes we overlook the physical needs of students. This time we ?re talking about the learning environment, the brick-and-mortar location where learning takes place.

Anticipating Environmental Needs

OK, as a teacher, it ?s easy to get bogged down in educational theory; that ?s our training; that ?s why we ?re in the role we ?re in. Knowing all the educational psychology and related information will help you figure out why your students learn ?or not. But if your students are distracted by their physical surroundings, none of the educational theories will help you connect with them, and you ?re not going to meet their needs. At the very least, you should consider the space, comfort, and suitability of your classroom environment.


Having enough space is important for teaching adults as well as children. We know that kids need a lot more classroom space than adults (children typically need about 25 square feet per student, while adults need only about 9 square feet). Unfortunately, we ?re far more likely to stuff 30 adults into a space that should really accommodate only about a dozen. A three-by-three square of space might only be enough space to sit on a chair and cross your legs, but if your students cannot do even that, they ?re going to check out ?first intellectually, and then physically.


It ?s also easy to neglect concerns about comfort in the classroom. While classroom space in a church may be difficult to come by and while adults are more capable of simply ?dealing with it, ? if your classroom isn ?t comfortable, eventually it will reduce the effectiveness of your teaching and the likelihood of students returning. Consider these comfort factors:

  • Temperature: Can you control it?
  • Seating: Is there enough? Can your learners endure sitting there for the whole time?
  • Amenities: Can your students snack as they learn? Is there a place to set their coffee? Do they have to hold their coats, purses, or other extras?


Because classroom space is at a premium, many churches will place groups in whatever space is available. Again, while this may be a necessity, at some point it may be destructive to the class itself. Some aspects to consider include:

  • Noise: Does the space have a lot of outside noise (from hallways, other corners of a large room, or equipment such as copiers, telephones, or air conditioners)?
  • Furniture and equipment: Do your students have a table to write on if needed? Do you need a white board or a TV and DVD player?
  • Decor: Are the room decorations distracting? (Are you trying to teach senior adults in a room that is designed for infants or teenagers? Are there posters, photos, or other content that may be inappropriate? This is especially important if you ?re meeting in a space outside of a church.)

Unfortunately, the environment where we try to teach is not always best suited for our needs, and it can get worse when we cannot control the environment. However, if we can anticipate the ways the learning environment can affect our students, we can prepare by adjusting our lessons, our materials, and our teaching practices to minimize negative effects.