Quantum Learning has coached and inspired teachers and facilitators to create mindful environments for the last three decades (since 1982). Our methodology includes two tenets—Everything is on Purpose and Everything Speaks—that remind us to pay attention to every detail of our learning environment because everything our students hear, see and do sends a message, either positive or negative. It’s up to us as teachers to be attentive and understand the impact of the environment we create.
These tenets and the importance of being mindful of the impact of everything around us was driven home to me when in 1979 I studied with Dr. Georgi Lozanov, a Bulgarian psychiatrist and educator. His teaching methodology was declared a “technology worth merit and further study” in 1978 by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
Since that time, we have been diligent in our study and application of Dr. Lozanov’s methods in our student and teacher development programs. In 2010, Dr. Lozanov invited me to submit an account of our programs and their impact on participants. My paper was included as part of Dr. Lozanov’s further research and report on the effectiveness of these methods to UNESCO’s Education for All. Before his death in 2012, Dr. Lozanov expressed that he held me and one other as students who excelled in their understandingand adherence to the integrity of his fundamental principles.
One of Lozanov’s methods highlights the need for students to be relaxed, alert and curious about what’s next, and to maintain a positive attitude and an eagerness to learn. He emphasized the need for lessons to be purposefully planned and well-orchestrated to consistently get outstanding results. Everything is on purpose.
Mindfulness is about paying attention, moment by moment, to all aspects of our classroom environment, including the following.
- physical environment: seating arrangement, light, temperature, purposeful art, positive messages, visual reinforcement of content
- emotional atmosphere: positive language, joy, acknowledgment
- purposeful instruction where teachers intentionally design and deliver lessons that
- engage students and build curiosity,
- immerse them in an experience that connects to the content,
- reinforces their learning, and
- guides their review, self-reflection and celebration.
One of our Quantum Learning directives is Send Intentional Messages.
“Everything we say and do sends a message that either positively or negatively impacts the quality of learning—there is no neutral.
“Whether it’s actions, interactions, body language, quality and formatting of handouts, posters, display of student work, room arrangement, teacher’s manner of dress—everything speaks. Everything that takes place in the classroom sends a message, but only students can decide what the message is and what it means to them. Knowledge of everything speaks means we view the classroom and all that’s in it with consideration of what message it sends.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System, p. 20)
Everything is on Purpose
Another QL directive is Be Purposeful.
“Being deliberate in what you say and do leads to achieving desired outcomes.
Because everything speaks, we must be very purposeful about what we do and say. Think What is my desired outcome? and make choices that propel learners to that outcome. Whether we are choosing an instructional strategy or placing posters on the walls, we must be consciously intentional—everything we do is on purpose. This focus encourages a greater awareness of all the variables that influence learning. Every aspect of the environment needs to be purposefully designed with the student in mind, and with what research supports. The environment must not distract from the learning process. We are purposeful with our planning and actions to orchestrate successful learning.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System p. 102)
Conscious and Nonconscious Learning
Learning is dual-planed. We learn through both our conscious and nonconscious (referred to by Lozanov as para-conscious) mind. Everything makes a suggestion, either consciously or nonconsciously. While a student is consciously listening to the teacher, his mind is nonconsciously absorbing information from the environment such as peripherals, the teacher’s mood and tone of voice, noises in the room and outside, as well as many other stimuli not consciously observed.
In Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, Gerd Gigerenzer (2007), a German psychologist says, “Unconscious inferences weave together data from the senses using prior knowledge about the world. . . . They are triggered by external stimuli in an automatic way.” (Part 2, chapter 7, online, n.p.)
Lozanov believed there was no neutral, only positive or negative. Teachers have the responsibility of making a concerted effort to create as many positives as possible in a comfortable, safe, and fun learning environment.” (Excerpt: Excellence in Teaching and Learning: The Quantum Learning System, p. 88)
At Quantum Learning we believe that those comfortable, safe and fun learning environments referred to by Georgi Lozanov are what effective teaching and learning are all about. And we know from our 35 years of inspiring and teaching educators to create them that mindful environments work!
Being mindful of your classroom environment can start small or you can go all out as did Kelli Myers, a QL teacher in Tennessee, who greeted her students at the start of the year in a beach-themed classroom.
Summary of Research Findings about Mindfulness and Quantum Learning Environments
|Attention||improvements in attentiveness||increased ability to interest self in class; enjoyed learning more|
|Compassion||improved respect for others||better relationships with peers and family|
|Calming||less hyperactive behavior;
|increased ability to access optimal states for better performance; better behavior|
|Atmosphere||enhanced school climate||made the classroom an enjoyable place for students and teachers|
|Self-efficacy||greater well-being||develop emotional and physical trust|
3 Steps Toward a Mindful Environment
- Know and orchestrate optimal learning states. We can orchestrate the conditions that optimize learning. One condition is state. State is one’s emotional/psychological/physical frame of mind. When students access a relaxed yet alert state of being, they are more focused. Their attentiveness heightens and receptivity increases. Ask yourself: What state of mind do my students need to be in to be successful? Your answers most likely include, focused, curious, open, attentive, willing. Now ask yourself: In what ways can my classroom environment elicit those optimal states for learning? Perhaps you’re thinking about lighting, temperature, seating, sounds. Since state has a powerful influence on the development of working memory, comprehension, and retention, take the time to know and orchestrate the conditions that elicit students’ optimal states for learning.
- Model the mindset you want in your students. You impact the attitudes and mindsets of your students. Your frame of mind (your emotional/psychological/physical state) is a multisensory cue that elicits a mirror response from your students. Ever stood before your class feeling passionate about the content and excited to share what you know? It’s not long before you see bright eyes, smiles and students leaning forward in anticipation of what’s coming next. Powerful, right? This works in reverse, too! A student shares exciting news about something they did or an insight they had about yesterday’s lesson and the class feels and responds to their excitement. Choose your state as you begin a lesson—be wondrous, curious, excited about the topic. Shift your state throughout the lesson. Be reflective during question and answer times. Be calm yet direct when addressing behavior issues. Be friendly as students enter and exit class.
- Maintain a constant awareness of the messages you’re sending. This ability begins with the undeniable fact that everything in the environment sends a message—positive or negative. At Quantum Learning we say everything speaks. Look around your room. What messages are you sending? What message does a disheveled desktop send? What message does warm lighting and greenery send? Everything, always, sends a message that either promotes or undermines learning. What messages are the walls sending? Take a moment to define what messages you want your physical environment to send. Perhaps you’re thinking along the lines of cooperation, growth, curiosity, and orderliness. Whatever the messages, be sure your classroom space always supports them.