Preparing a Suitable Music Learning Environment


Dr Elizabeth Stafford explores themes from Unit 2 of the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators.

When preparing the learning environment – the room that you are going to teach in – there are three things to consider:

  1. The technical and creative requirements of the activities that will be taking place.
  2. The specific needs of your pupils
  3. Health and Safety

Technical and creative requirements

It goes without saying that all teachers want to teach in a suitable environment for the activities that they are going to be carrying out. However, those of us who work as visiting teachers in schools are well aware that is not always the case!

In an ideal world we want the learning environment to be perfectly suited to the musical activity. Those of us who are in charge of our own environments – for example private teachers working at home, community musicians who teach in a music studio in an arts or community centre, or school-based teachers who are lucky enough to have a dedicated music room at their disposal – should therefore aim to make our spaces as suitable as possible for the activity in hand.

When preparing the learning environment it is important to consider all the activities that are likely to take place in it. Do you need space for movement? Do you want to play videos or audio tracks, and have you got the equipment to do so? Do you need a whiteboard or display boards for notation reading activities?

Whatever type of musical learning you deliver, you should ensure that you deliver it in a technically and creatively suitable environment.

Specific needs of pupils

Another area to consider when planning your learning environment is the specific needs of your pupils. This could be a diagnosed need like autism, dyslexia or another special educational need or disability, or it could be a less formally defined need, like knowing that one particular pupil doesn’t work well when they have to sit too close to other pupils.

However well suited your space is to the activities that you will be delivering, you also need to consider your pupils’ needs during those activities, to establish whether further adjustments need to be made to the learning environment.

Health and Safety

“Health and Safety” has been the butt of endless jokes for years now, but in reality the health and safety of our pupils is of paramount importance. If you work in a school or other formal environment there will be a Health and Safety policy to which you must adhere, and if you teach from home you may wish to create a policy or set of guidelines of your own, just to show that you have thought of this aspect in the event of any accident or injury befalling your pupils.

Whilst Health and Safety can cover a great many areas of teaching, in the context of the CME we are looking specifically at making the learning environment safe for your pupils. This means that when you set up your teaching room (or when it is set up for you by the school or other organisation where you work) a risk assessment should be carried out considering all of the activities that will take place in the space, the possible risks during these activities, and what you should do to reduce the risk. Once you have set up the room to reduce any risks to your pupils, it is important that you check the room every time you use it to ensure that the measures you have put in place are still effective.

When carrying out a risk assessment you should look for any hazards, identify how your pupils might be harmed by them, and then work out how to eliminate or mitigate these. For example, maybe there is a tattered old carpet in your teaching room that is a trip hazard. You could eliminate this by getting rid of the carpet, but if that’s not possible you could mitigate the risk by taping down the affected areas, or rearranging the furniture in the room so that the pupils do not have to walk across the affected areas of carpet.

You also need to ensure that your pupils understand how to keep themselves safe in the learning environment, for example when handling instruments and equipment. This is both so that the pupils do not harm themselves, and also so that they do not harm your equipment! For some teaching situations, this will include an element of instrumental technique, for example correct posture, alongside the physical handling of resources, and may also include an auditory health aspect.

The more we can do to ensure that our learning environments are safe and suitable, the greater the chances that our lessons will be successful!

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