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Accelerated learning

Creating a positive learning environment


Maslow’s hierarchy

of human needs


Physiological needs

food - water - clothing - health


Safety needs

survival – security – order


Need to belong

identification – friendship – love


Esteem needs

success – self-respect – confidence


Need for self-actualisation

desire to fulfil oneself


Maslow suggests that unless the lower order needs are met, we find it difficult to focus on fulfilment of the higher order needs.  We all know from experience that it can be extremely difficult to concentrate if one is cold or hungry: our physiological needs take precedence over our other needs.  It can be equally difficult to focus on learning if we are fearful of being bullied (by classmates or the teacher) or are desperate to go to the toilet.

There are various ways in which we can adapt the learning environment so that it caters for the PHYSICAL needs of our students. 

  • Classrooms should be warm (but not excessively hot), clean, welcoming, bright and colourful.

  • Furniture needs to be comfortable and capable of being easily moved to ensure variety.

  • The layout of the room should be inviting, suggesting the prospect of interesting activity.

  • Displays of posters, models, learning resources, etc. will stimulate enquiry and interest.  (Change displays frequently.)

  • Students should have free access to water (and the toilet!)


We can meet the PSYCHOLOGICAL needs of our students. 

  • Each student should be greeted by name and made to feel welcome.

  • We can remove stress by maintaining a calm and purposeful demeanour and expecting our students to do the same.

  • Routines (for giving out books and materials, tidying up, etc.) help to establish order (though we should beware of allowing excessive routine to dull the quality of the learning experience itself).

  • It is important to have consistent expectations of every student.  (Do not keep “moving the goalposts”.)


We can encourage the development of PERSONAL esteem in our students.

  • Welcome each child by name and use names frequently in a positive way.

  • Make a point of commending and rewarding good behaviour.

  • Praise those who engage in the learning process.  Even if their answers to questions are wrong, make it clear that you welcome their efforts.

  • Treat all suggestions seriously, encouraging students to explain or justify their ideas where necessary.

  • Allow students to have fun – on the understanding that this does not interfere with the learning process.


Other ideas for creating a relaxed and positive learning environment

Use (calming) music – particularly as students enter the classroom.


Create a relaxing area in one corner of the classroom where students can “chill out” with a book.


Use aromatherapy oils (lavender in particular) to create a calm and pleasing ambience.


Change displays regularly.


Display a suitably uplifting or challenging “motto of the week”.

Create a class interest board where students can post interesting items.  (Newspaper clippings about successful school projects; certificates and awards, holiday postcards, club details, etc.)


One teacher I know has a special padded comfy-chair which is used throughout the week by last week’s “pupil of the week”.  This coveted position could be awarded by the class to the student they consider has deserved it for their efforts.


Another teacher awards a “trier-trophy” at the end of each day – which takes pride of place on the recipient’s desk.  (It is actually an old darts trophy that he found in the bottom of a locker.)

Accelerated learning overview

Learning environment - The big picture - Outcomes - Input - Activity - Demonstration - Review