Going Deeper: Learning Environment

Creating an Encouraging Learning Environment

A key responsibility of supervisor-mentors is to consciously create an encouraging learning environment. In her classic work, Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach, Jane Vella suggest that adult learning is best achieved in dialogue. She writes,

Dia means “between,” logos means “word.” Hence, dia + logue = “the word between us.” The approach to adult learning based on these principles holds that adults have enough life experience to be in dialogue with any teacher about any subject and will learn new knowledge, attitudes, or skills best in relation to that life experience (Knowles, 1970.)


Vella suggests 12 principles we can use to promote an encouraging learning environment.

  • Needs assessment: participation of the learners in naming what is to be learned.
  • Safety in the environment and the process. We create a context for learning. That context can be made safe.
  • Sound relationships between teacher and learner and among learners.
  • Sequence of content and reinforcement.
  • Praxis: action with reflection or learning by doing.
  • Respect for learners as decision-makers.
  • Ideas, feelings, and actions: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor aspects of learning.
  • Immediacy of the learning.
  • Clear roles and role development.
  • Teamwork and the use of small groups.
  • Engagement of the learners in what they are learning.
  • Accountability: how do they know what they know?

Read more from Jane Vella’s book:

Next: Self-Check