Supportive Learning Environments

How can built environment educators foster supportive learning environments and promote student wellbeing more effectively?

One of many changes in recent years is the expectation that education ought to actively contribute to and support students wellbeing. As we increase our understanding of the ways in which wellbeing and learning experiences impact one another, educators are obligated to reflect on how they might foster supportive and protective environments so that all students can thrive. Engaging content, collaborative activities, opportunities to experiment and make mistakes, clear assessment and constructive feedback--and how these align into a coordinated whole--can contribute to students' sense of belonging and their development of emotional resilience. Indeed, our research shows that supportive learning environments are characterised by the very qualities that equate to high-quality teaching. Still, foregrounding wellbeing means being intentional about supporting students through teaching approaches. Moreover, continuing to collect evidence and share innovative practices will help build a foundation for promoting the necessary cultural changes in this realm.

What does BEL+T investigate in this area?

  • BEL+T reviews the latest scholarship on student wellbeing in higher education, such as Baik et al., 2019, and considers how these lessons can translate to our disciplines.
  • This investigation includes being attentive to concerns for student wellbeing when reviewing scholarship on online and hybrid teaching contexts and the unique needs engendered through built environments disciplinary cultures.
  • BEL+T's DIAgram continues to inform our holistic and integrated perspective towards supportive learning environments and the position that every aspect of teaching can promote student wellbeing in some way.

How are these contributing to high-quality and relevant learning experiences?

BEL+T has developed the following outcomes from this work:

  • A table of strategies for promoting a supportive learning environment and sense of belonging is available here on the BEL+T website.
  • An in-depth explanation for how the table was designed and populated is published in this open-access Charrette journal article.
  • Our work in this area has led to foregrounding student wellbeing in our guidance for teaching in online and hybrid contexts.
  • The development of the Studio-Culture agreement that clearly articulates an agreement between students and staff on how to best support students' design learning.

What is next on the horizon?

BEL+T will look more closely at the topic 'on the ground' to identify specific teaching strategies. Soliciting student voices will help confirm the degree to which strategies are being received as supportive.

BEL+T Projects

  • Thompson & Song (2021) DIAgramming Supportive Learning Environments

    In this paper, we focus on how learning design – that is, the ways academics organise and facilitate student learning experiences – can nurture student wellbeing by contributing to a supportive learning environment. As guidance for instructors, we present a framework for approaching subject-level learning design to enhance architecture student wellbeing across the three primary domains of activity: delivery, interaction and assessment. Effective integration of a supportive learning environment demands we attend to factors enmeshed with our discipline’s pedagogical structures that destabilise wellbeing. This approach thus elevates care for student wellbeing as an integral, rather than ancillary, dimension of our teaching practice.

    Thompson, J.& Song, H. (2021). DIAgramming Supportive Learning Environments: Architecture student wellbeing and resilience. Charrette 7(2).

  • Student Wellbeing SLE Framework

    In this project, BEL+T examines the complex relationship between supportive learning environments and student wellbeing. Educators can holistically enhance students’ wellbeing through organizing and facilitating what and how students learn to contribute to supportive learning environments. Efforts made towards enhancing supportive learning environments will involve all three facets of the DIAgram (i.e. delivery, interaction, assessment).

    The Supportive Learning Environments page provides educators with practical evidence-based strategies to build and support supportive learning environment for their students to thrive. Framed according to the DIAgram, the strategies are applicable to all modes of teaching and learning such as online, on campus and/or blended.

    The link to the page can be found here.

  • Teaching for Inclusive Learning: BEL+T Workshop

    A session that examined issues that can impact student experiences of inclusion, moving beyond ‘deficit models’ in these discussions, and teaching approaches that can build participation and engagement across a cohort.

    The pilot BEL+T Session took place on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. The focus was on Teaching for Inclusive Learning and it was terrific to share a focus and ideas with staff who are teaching, and supporting teaching and students, as well as student representatives.

    These discussions are directly relevant to the delivery of great teaching within our Faculty, as well as to key initiatives at the University including the Belonging to Melbourne: Enhancing Student Life and Success green paper currently under discussion.  The focus of the evening also relates strongly to a number of the themes within Great Teaching @ ABP on the BEL+T site and additional resources and links are included below.

    The BEL+T Teaching for Inclusive Learning panel and participants explored issues that can impact student experiences of inclusion, moving beyond ‘deficit models’ in these discussions, and teaching approaches that can build participation and engagement across a cohort.

    More resources can be found here.

Related Research