Supportive Learning Environments

Critically analyse issues of socio-economic factors, school culture and professional environments in relation to practice.

Around the time of the new New Zealand Curriculum being introduced I attempted to rewrite my pedagogy and through my exploration stumbled across the Ministry of Education’s (2007) Effective Pedagogy. The paragraph that stood out most was around ‘creating a supportive learning environment’ (p.34) as it identified a holistic view towards education. This has been the foundation to my practice and it is through this lens that I critique and analyse my own teaching and learning.

“Students learn best when they feel accepted, when they enjoy positive relationships with their fellow students and teachers, and when they are able to be active, visible members of the learning community” (Ministry of Education, 2007, p.34).

During the NZ Curriculum change, the school I worked at went on an exploration and conscious effort to develop their culture, looking deeply and exposing their hidden curriculum. This experience became the foundation learning around building group culture and climate for me. In the Academy for SELinSchools (2015) video, Warner states “the school culture and climate is very important… Ideally it needs to be its own climate but it needs to be a positive climate. It’s one that makes every student feel a part of it. The culture is something that runs more deeply. It’s how that school does things. What are its values? What kinds of traditions? How do people treat each other?” I spend the first term of every school year dedicated to developing this. We look into our identity and work on building mutual trust, respect and honesty. I incorporate aspects of ako and tuakana/teina models so students have an understanding that they can draw from each others strengths to support them in their learning. I focus on leadership and lifelong learning around the Key Competencies, 21st Century Learning skills, and individual learning outcomes. This sets us on the path as a successful classroom community for the rest of the year.

Effective teachers foster positive relationships within environments that are caring, inclusive, non-discriminatory, and cohesive. They also build good relationships with the wider school community working with parents and caregivers as key partners who have unique knowledge of their children and countless opportunities to advance their children’s learning” (Ministry of Education, 2007, p.34).

Interacting with the wider school community people have varying views on the idea of ‘school’ based on their own previous experiences. Gargiulo (2014) research into engagement and academic success of students from low socio-economic status supports these views. Of particular interest is his research into Dr Ruby K. Payne’s work regarding the hidden curriculum and rules discussing how education is developed and implemented by middle class society. He states “… an educated and qualified teacher is less likely to understand the perspective of a child from an impoverished background” (Gargiulo, 2014, p.4).
I would class myself as this stereotype and it got me thinking about the importance of knowing my own identity and how this can be a strength as well as a barrier regarding my perceptions, but, also, how my identity can be perceived by others. Fostering positive relationships is achieved through the ‘informal’ and my current school does this well. We have regular whanāu nights where we have barbecues with various activities and games. Through these evenings we can break down stereotypes to create the partnerships necessary for student learning.

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Students, Teachers & Whānau playing Big Ball Soccer – Image: Emma McFadyen

“Effective teachers attend to the cultural and linguistic diversity of all their students. The classroom culture exists within and alongside many other cultures, including the cultures of the wider school and the local community, the students’ peer culture, and the teachers’ professional culture” (Ministry of Education, 2007, p.34).

The most successful environments I’ve been involved in have been the ones where there has been by-in from all areas. During a TED-Ed talk (2013), Wilson states “to build a culture of success you need to have a vision… you need to have unity… a coming together, a collaboration, a vision of one person is just that… and there has to be empowerment”  Working overseas, I was part of a collaborative team. We all had buy-in to our vision and this is what kept us strong as we worked out the details of getting to know each other professionally, which was hard as it was an international space and we came from different parts of the globe. Once we had achieved this we developed a wonderful synergy and the culture we had built among ourselves had a ripple effect. We were able to draw on the outer environments bringing teachers from our secondary school sector, specialists, whanāu, and local community experts to engage and support our students in their learning. This empowered everyone involved creating a sense of achievement and strengthened relationships to build stronger learning opportunities for students.

To ensure students feel successful in learning it is vital as an effective teachers to be conscious of creating supportive environments which incorporate a holistic view towards education.

by 2 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Academy for SELinSchools. (2015, April 28). What is School Culture and Climate? [Video] Retrieved from

Gargiulo, S. (2014). Principal sabbatical report. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum for English-medium teaching and learning in years 1-13. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media Limited.

TED-Ed. (2013, Jun 21). Building a culture of success. [Video] Retrieved from



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